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What Should Working Mothers In California Know About Their Rights?

Understanding the rights afforded to expecting and new mothers in the workplace may help working women ensure they are protected.

Many women in California’s workforce continue working through their pregnancies, as well as after giving birth. Most employers support their workers during this exciting time. However, there are unfortunately some employers who find a worker’s pregnancy more of an inconvenience than a blessing. In order to ensure they are protected, it is important for expecting and new mothers to understand their workplace rights.

Pregnancy Accommodations

During their pregnancies, it is common for women to experience health issues. This may include severe morning sickness, gestational diabetes and pregnancy-induced hypertension. For some, these complications may interfere with their ability to perform certain job duties. In such cases, their employers should work with them to arrange for reasonable accommodations. Additionally, women are entitled to take time to go to physician appointments; provided they cannot schedule them around their work.

Pregnancy Disability Leave

Women who have disabilities related to their pregnancies and are unable to work with accommodations may be entitled to take maternity disability leave. This time does not have to be taken all at once and it may be used before they give birth, after or both. If they meet the specified requirements, women may receive this leave for up to four months, as long as their pregnancy-related disabilities persist.

A physically-strenuous experience, pregnancy-related disabilities cover the recovery time women need after vaginal and caesarian section births. Depending on the circumstances of their labor and deliveries, among other factors, women may require between six and eight weeks of leave. Failure to provide this time, pushing new mothers to come back to work or reinstating them at a lesser position may be considered workplace discrimination.

Bonding Leave

In addition to providing maternity leave for working mothers to recover after childbirth, state law affords eligible new parents additional leave to bond with their new babies. Available to mothers and fathers, people may take up to 12 weeks off within 12 months of the child’s birth. This leave is also available to adoptive parents and foster parents. Working parents may receive between 60 and 70 percent of the wages they earned in the five to 18-months prior to their claim start dates.


Many working mothers choose to continue breastfeeding after going back to work. As such, they often require time to express milk during their working hours. By law, their employers must allow them time to pump, as well as provide them with a private place they can use that is not the bathroom. Federal law grants women the right to break time for nursing for up to one year after giving birth; however, state law extends this right for as long as mothers choose to continue breastfeeding.

Righting Workplace Wrongs

Juggling the challenges of working while pregnant or just after giving birth can be difficult enough for new mothers in California. This time may be more trying if their rights are violated in the workplace. Those who have been treated unfairly or illegally by their employers may find it helpful to discuss their options for seeking justice with a lawyer.