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Pregnancy employment discrimination and California law

California readers may be interested in a new piece of legislation introduced by multiple members of the U.S. House of Representatives in early May. Called the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, the bill is meant to provide significant protections to pregnant employees and prevent employment discrimination. Specifically, if passed, the legislation would encourage employers to work with pregnant women to provide appropriate accommodations and a productive workplace environment.

However, of particular interest to readers may be that the state of California already offers perhaps the most protection to pregnant employees in the nation. For example, a pregnant employee has a right to job-protected leave in California. While this is not necessarily paid leave, it may nonetheless help with reducing the stress that a pregnancy may bring. It may alleviate the pressure on some women California who might feel they could be forced to make a choice between their jobs or their families.

Of course, some types of work, such as construction, may not be possible for pregnant employees. In such instances, California law also grants a pregnant woman the right to transfer to a different position within the company when it is deemed medically necessary.

Pregnancy discrimination still does occur. Since 2000, there have been roughly two pregnancy employment discrimination cases filed each year in the state. At the same time, nationally since 1997, the rate of pregnancy discrimination claims has gone up 54 percent.

Advocates credit California's laws for generally reducing instances of discrimination. With the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act currently pending legislative action, it may well be that in the future pregnant women in the rest of the nation will enjoy similar job protection.

Source: Time, "Should Pregnant Women Be Accommodated in the Workplace?," Bonnie Rochman, May 11, 2012

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