California employers must be aware of the various protections the law provides to pregnant employees. Not only is an employer prohibited from harassing or discriminating against an employee that is pregnant, California law allows an employee that is disabled by pregnancy or related medical conditions to take a leave of absence. Additionally, an employee is required to provide any other reasonable accommodations as necessary.
Employers may be surprised to learn that even misguided efforts to protect or assist a pregnant employee can get them into trouble. In fact, acting with good intentions can lead you astray from what is required by applicable statutes. Thus, it is imperative that you are familiar with what is required under the law and when in doubt, consult with a seasoned employer defense attorney.
An employer should avoid making assumptions regarding a pregnant employee. For example, you should not assume that your employee will miss work due to her condition. There are numerous women who work straight through pregnancy without missing work or it impacting her productivity. You should also not assume that your employee will want to cut-back on her hours during her pregnancy or after the baby has arrived. Most employees return to work as originally planned and at the same level as prior to the pregnancy.
What should an employer do? You should handle each employee’s pregnancy as a unique situation. Ignore past experiences with pregnant employees and avoid making decisions on your assumptions or expectations. Remember, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate in terms of compensation, conditions, or privileges of employment because of pregnancy. Thus, even acts taken in consideration or kindness can be construed as discriminatory.
There are many other issues to consider when dealing with pregnant employees, which we will be discussing in future blogs. Please check back or contact us to schedule an initial consultation. We are located in Sacramento County, and serve clients throughout California.