Granting a leave of absence instead of workplace accommodations to a pregnant employee may not have been reasonable under California law, ruled a federal district court in California. When a pregnant employee asked for an accommodation of a bathroom break every three hours, and no heavy lifting or pushing, her employer allegedly told her that she should have her doctor place her on disability. She remained on leave for the next eight months. While she was still in the hospital after a C-section delivery, the employer called her and told her that she might lose her job if she didn’t report to work that day. Two weeks later they terminated her, citing job abandonment. When the employee sued for discrimination and failure to accommodate her pregnancy, the employer claimed that providing her the leave of absence was a sufficient accommodation. The court refused to dismiss the claim, stating that a leave of absence can be a reasonable accommodation, but that it is not necessarily a reasonable accommodation. The judge refused to dismiss the claims and will allow the case to proceed (Tapia v. Artistree, Inc., CD Cal, April, 2014).
Tips: Unlike federal law, California specifically requires employers to reasonably accommodate a pregnant employee’s medical restrictions if she requests an accommodation. When dealing with disability and pregnancy issues, it is never wise to think in absolutes. An appropriate solution for one employee may not be appropriate for others. Engage in the interactive process and consider how your actions might look to a judge or jury. For more information, see the discussion of California state law in our Legal Guide, “Pregnancy and Disability” (3122) or contact Vigilant about ongoing help with California employment laws.
This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult Vigilant or legal counsel.