Pregnancy Series #4 – Pregnancy Disability Leave in California – 10 Things You Should Know

Pregnancy Disability Leave, PDL, FMLA, CFRA, reasonable accomodationIn a previous post we covered what you need to know about maternity leave. But that is only useful if you have a typical pregnancy. What if it’s a hard pregnancy, and you need more than the usual amount of maternity leave? You are probably wondering:

  • What if I get put on bed rest and can’t work?
  • What if my labor is horrible and I need more than 12 weeks to recover?
  • How much disability leave can I take?
  • Can my boss refuse to let me take disability leave beyond my maternity leave?
  • Do I have the right to return to the same position afterwards? Same pay?
  • What else do I need to know?

Click through for ten critical pieces of information that you need to know about pregnancy disability leave…. 

First, an employee who is disabled on account of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions is entitled to take Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL). PDL is a part of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

Second, an employee “disabled by pregnancy” is entitled to up to four months of disability leave. That begs the question, what does “disabled by pregnancy” mean?

An employee is disabled by pregnancy and entitled to leave if, in her doctor’s opinion, she is: unable to work, unable to perform her essential job functions, or unable to perform these functions without undue risk to herself, the successful completion of her pregnancy, or to other persons.

A woman suffering from severe morning sickness is considered disabled by pregnancy. It also includes time off needed for prenatal care, doctor-ordered bed rest, childbirth, recovery from childbirth, or any related medical condition.

Third, an employee is only entitled to use the maximum amount of PDL if she was actually disabled by pregnancy for four months. If the disability ends the leave must end.

Fourth, leave can be taken before or after birth. All leave taken in connection with a specific pregnancy counts toward computing the four-month period.

Fifth, PDL applies to all employers in California who have five or more employees.

Sixth, if an employee is disabled and requests a reasonable accommodation upon the advice of her doctor, an employer must provide the reasonable accommodation. As an accommodation, and with the advice of her doctor, an employee can request transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position for the duration of her pregnancy.

Seventh, PDL will be deducted from an employee’s twelve weeks of FMLA leave. On the other hand, employees are entitled to take PDL in addition to any leave entitlement they might have under CFRA. For example, an employee could take four months pregnancy disability leave for her disability, and 12 weeks CFRA leave to bond with the baby or to bond with an adopted child.

Eighth, after a PDL or transfer, employees are guaranteed a return to the same position. If her same position is no longer available the employer must offer a position that is comparable in terms of pay, location, job content, and promotional opportunities, unless the employer can prove that no comparable position exists.

Ninth, unlike the CFRA and FMLA, there is no length of service requirement or requirement that an employee have worked 1250 hours prior to the commencement of a leave.

Tenth, if possible, an employee must provide her employer with at least 30 days advance notice of the date for which the pregnancy disability leave is sought or transfer begins and the estimated duration of the leave. If 30 days advance notice is not possible due to a medical emergency, notice must be given as soon as practical. The leave may be modified as a woman’s changing medical condition dictates.

Obviously, there is much more to PDL that what I’ve outlined here. If you have been denied PDL or want to learn more, contact a good employment attorney for an explanation of your rights.


Branigan Robertson is a California employment lawyer who exclusively represents employees in workplace disputes. He focuses his practice on sexual harassment, wage & hour, wrongful termination, and retaliation. Visit his website at or call his office at 949.667.3025.

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Filed under CFRA - California Family Rights Act, Disabling Injury and Illness, Discrimination, Family & Medical Leave, FEHA – Fair Employment & Housing Act, FMLA - Family & Medical Leave Act, Maternity Leave, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Disability Leave, Sex Discrimination

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