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What has changed for California's pregnancy disability leave?

What has changed for California's pregnancy disability leave?

California FMLA Changes
Recently, changes were made to the California FMLA/Pregnancy Leave laws, which resulted in additions to employers’ responsibilities and enhancements to workers’ protections.

Summary of the changes
The changes, which went into effect on December 30, 2012 include an expanded definition of when a woman is considered “disabled by pregnancy;” a change to the definition of “four months;” information on reinstatement; reasonable workday breaks (including those for breastfeeding) and required medical certifications. There is also clarification of employers’ responsibilities regarding “reasonable accommodations.”

Highlights of the changes

  • Employers with five or more employees must offer at least four months of unpaid leave to employees needing to take time off from work because of pregnancy, childbirth or a related illness;
  • Defined the “four months of maximum leave” that employers must provide to mean the number of days the employee would typically work within four calendar months (17 and 1/3 weeks), and how this time is calculated;
  • Expanded the definition of “disabled by pregnancy” to include time off for postnatal recovery; bed rest; gestational diabetes; pregnancy-related hypertension; preeclampsia, postpartum depression; childbirth; termination of pregnancy; childbirth recovery etc.
  • Clarified employers’ obligation to offer reasonable accommodations or transfers when female employees are affected by pregnancy, childbirth or any related medical condition (including lactation-related medical conditions e.g., mastitis and their lactation-related issues);
  • Amended the requirement for employees to notify employers in writing of medical certification requirements each time such certifications are required, and to supply the employee with the “Certification of Health Care Provider for Pregnancy Disability Leave, Transfer and/or Reasonable Accommodation” form for the employee's health care provider to complete;
  • Clarified that there is no requirement of minimum hours worked or length of service before employees are eligible for reasonable accommodations, transfers or disability leave-eligibility requirements;
  • Expanded legal protection for pregnant women, making it unlawful to harass or discriminate against employees or applicants based on actual or perceived pregnancy;
  • Changed notices in the workplace to give additional information to employees on their rights and responsibilities in reference to pregnancy disability leave and the California Family Rights Act.

Advice for Employers
In light of these new regulations, California employers should review and revise their employee handbooks, and leave policies and practices to reflect the new regulations. Employers should also display updated workplace posters and notices to be viewed by all employees in accordance with these new regulations. It is also wise to implement training to advise supervisors and managers regarding compliance with these new requirements.

California employers will be required to post these changes in the workplace.

Additional Resources For the new California FMLA posting