Pregnancy Leave: How much time are you entitled to take off work?

Navigating through the pregnancy leave laws in California can be challenging, especially if you work for a larger employer. Below, I have outlined the eligibility requirements, amount of leave time, and reinstatement rights under both California and federal law (specifically for the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), and the Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL)). Take a look at my step-by-step approach to determine the amount of leave you are entitled to as a California employee.

1. Eligibility for Leave

First, determine which law(s) cover your employer and whether you are eligible for leave under those laws.

  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA):
    • Employer must have 50, or more, employees within 75-miles of the worksite of the employee requesting leave
    • Employee must have worked 12 months for employer
    • Employee must have worked 1,250 hours in last year for employer
  • California Family Rights Act (CFRA)
    • Employer must have 50, or more, employees within 75-miles of the worksite of the employee requesting leave
    • Employee must have worked 12 months for employer within prior year
    • Employee must have worked 1,250 hours in the last year for employer
  • Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL)
    • Employer must have 5, or more, employees (the statute does not specify that the 5 employees must be employed in California, so many argue that the 5 employee requirement means 5 employees nationwide)
    • Note: No length of service requirement

2. Amount of Leave for Pregnancy-Related Disabilities, Childbirth, and Bonding Time 

Next, look at the law(s) for which you are eligible to determine how much leave you may take for your pregnancy.

  • FMLA provides eligible employees 12-weeks leave for the serious health condition of employee (including pregnancy) and birth of child and to care for child.
  • CFRA provides eligible employees 12-weeks leave for the birth of child and to care for child (baby bonding time).
  • PDLL provides eligible employees up to 4-months of leave for disability due to an employee’s “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition.”  An employee is “disabled” by pregnancy, for purposes of the PDLL, if she is unable to work, unable to perform one or more of her job functions, or unable to perform the functions of her job without undue risk to herself, her pregnancy, or others.

3. How The Laws Interact

Now, here is the tricky part – some of the leave laws overlap.  Specifically, a leave under the FMLA and PDLL run concurrently. This means that an employee who takes 12-weeks of leave for a disability due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition, will have exhausted her FMLA leave and will have exhausted 12-weeks of her 4-month leave entitlement under the PDLL.  By contrast, a leave under the PDLL does not run concurrently with a CFRA leave. Instead, following a pregnancy disability leave, an employee who is eligible for leave under CFRA will still have the right to take 12-weeks of baby bonding leave.

4. Reinstatement Rights

Under both the FMLA and CFRA, an employee returning from a leave of absence is entitled to be reinstated to the same or comparable position.  Under the PDLL, an employee returning from pregnancy disability leave generally has the right to be reinstated to the “same position” she held before her leave of absence.