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Pregnancy Leave is a Right

What is Pregnancy Disability Leave?

There are several laws in place in California that protect the rights of pregnant women. These protections extend beyond just maternity leave. In fact, California, pregnant mothers are entitled to maternity leave for reasons beyond caring for the child.

California mothers have the right to take time off from work based on disabilities “related to” the pregnancy and childbirth. What does this mean for practical purposes? What is a disability relating to pregnancy?

The definition of “disabled” in these circumstances is very broad indeed. If a woman’s doctor certifies it, a woman is considered disabled by pregnancy or childbirth if she is unable to perform an essential function of her job. For example, if a woman can’t stand during work hours because of her pregnancy, she would not be able to perform work activities that required her to stand. Therefore, she would be considered disabled by her pregnancy and not able to work and entitled to take a legally protected medical leave.

In California, pregnant women are not required to work where they would jeopardize their health, or the health of their baby, by doing so. Thus, a woman is disabled by pregnancy or childbirth if her health care provider certifies an opinion that the woman can not perform an essential function of her job without undue risk to herself, to her baby, or to anyone else.

Morning sickness might also be the basis for a doctor’s certification of a medical leave if the woman’s sickness is severe.

California’s regulations provide a list of examples of conditions or situations where a woman could be considered, subject to the doctor’s certification, to be disabled by pregnancy. These include (but are not limited to):

Prenatal care.

Postnatal care.

Bed rest.

Gestational diabetes.

Pregnancy-induced hypertension.


Post-partum depression.


Loss or end of pregnancy

Recovery from childbirth.

If you believe your employer has failed to comply with the legal requirements for pregnancy leave, or you have been terminated or discriminated against because you requested, or took, pregnancy leave, please contact Daniel Feder, an experienced pregnancy discrimination lawyer.