Pregnant Worker Who Exhausted Pregnancy Leave Still Has Discrimination Claims Under California Law

A cleaner, dealing with a high-risk pregnancy, was fired after exhausting her leave under California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL).  The California Court of Appeal recently ruled that, although she exhausted all her pregnancy disability leave, she could still have viable discrimination claims under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

While the PDLL provides up to four months of leave for an employee disabled by pregnancy, the FEHA allows a disabled employee to request “leave of no statutorily fixed duration” as a reasonable accommodation so long as it poses no undue hardship to an employer.  The worker’s allegations that her employer failed to provide her additional leave as a reasonable accommodation for her pregnancy-related disability, was an “issue of first impression” for the appeals court, meaning the court faced the question for the first time.  The appeals court allowed the case to move forward to the next stage in the litigation, where the merits of the particular case will be addressed.

The language of the PDLL states that its remedies “augment, rather than supplant, those set forth elsewhere in the FEHA.”  Thus, the appeals court said a woman disabled by pregnancy still would be “entitled to protections afforded any other disabled employee.”

The case is Sanchez v. Swissport Inc., Cal. Ct. App., No. B237761, 2/21/13.  For information, contact your labor law counsel.

By Lisl Duncan

Legal Developments