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How Much Pregnancy-Related Leave can be Taken in California? It is More than a “Limited Time”

A few weeks ago, Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer announced she was pregnant with twin girls. In her announcement, she said she is “taking limited time away” after the birth of her babies. Mayer’s proclamation triggered discussion and debate on several topics including how much pregnancy and family leave a California employee can legally take off. From my conversations with employers, it is obvious there is confusion around this issue. So here is the law on it.

California employers with five or more employees must comply with the Pregnancy Disability Leave Act (“PDL”). Under this law, female employees disabled because of pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition can take up to four months of unpaid leave per pregnancy. “Four months” is defined as the number of days the employee would normally work within 17 1/3 weeks. For example, a full-time employee working a 40-hour workweek is entitled to 693 hours of leave (40 hours x 17 1/3 weeks = 693 hours). For part-time employees, four months is calculated on a pro rata basis; for example, a part-time employee working a 20-hour workweek is entitled to 346.6 hours of leave (20 hours x 17 1/3 weeks = 346.6 hours).

The up to four months of leave can be taken in one continuous period of time, intermittently or through a reduced work schedule and can occur during the pregnancy and/or after delivery. For example, if an employee who normally works a 40-hour workweek takes 180 hours of intermittent leave during her pregnancy, she would still be entitled to take 513 hours after delivery (693 hours – 180 hours = 513 hours).

Employers with 50 or more employees must also comply with the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”). Leave under CFRA does NOT run concurrently with the PDL, and allows eligible employees - mothers and fathers - to take an additional 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for bonding time following the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child or for the serious health condition of the newborn or newly adopted or placed child.

Thus, through a combination of the PDL and CFRA, a female pregnant employee may be eligible for up to seven months of leave. But there still could more protected leave available! A pregnant woman who remains disabled after the expiration of her time off under the leave laws may be entitled to additional leave as a reasonable accommodation of her disability under California’s disability law. This certainly adds up to more than a “limited time away”!

Employers can contact Shivani Sutaria Law Offices if they have questions related to granting pregnancy-related and/or baby bonding leave to their employees.

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