California law requires employers with five or more employees to provide pregnancy disability leave (PDL) to employees who are disabled by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. New revisions to the PDL regulations have taken effect and include some notable substantive changes, including the following:
- Expansion of definition of “disabled by pregnancy.” The regulations now define the term “disabled by pregnancy” to include needing time off for prenatal or postnatal care, gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced hypertension, preeclampsia, post-partum depression, and loss or end of pregnancy. The regulations indicate that the list of conditions is intended to be non-exclusive and illustrative only, so employers should take a broad view of the term “disabled by pregnancy.”
- Prohibition of discrimination based on “perceived pregnancy.” It is now unlawful to discriminate or harass an employee based on “perceived pregnancy,” which the regulations define as being regarded or treated by an employer as being pregnant or having a related medical condition.
- Clarification of definition of “four months.” An employer must grant up to four months of leave to an employee disabled by pregnancy. The new regulations specify that “four months” means one-third of a year, equaling 17 and one-third weeks.
- Expanded accommodation and reinstatement rights. The revised regulations provide examples of how an employer can reasonably accommodate employees affected by pregnancy, including modifying work schedules to permit earlier or later hours, providing furniture such as stools or chairs, acquiring or modifying equipment or devices, and providing a reasonable amount of break time for lactation or trips to the restroom. Additionally, the regulations expand the right of an employee to reinstatement to the same or comparable position. An employer can now be liable for transferring an employee over her objection to another position, unless the transfer is for legitimate operational needs unrelated to the employee’s pregnancy or perceived pregnancy, for requiring an employee to take a leave of absence because of pregnancy or perceived pregnancy when the employee has not requested leave, and for retaliating, discharging or otherwise discriminating against an employee for opposing employment practices forbidden by law.
- New forms and notices. The PDL law has always required employers to provide written notice to employees about their rights and responsibilities relating to PDL. The state has provided sample form notices for employers with less than 50 employees (Notice A) and employers with 50 or more employees (Notice B). These notices have been revised and updated in the new regulations.
The revisions to the California’s PDL regulations should compel employers to review their handbooks, policies and practices to ensure compliance with the law.