pregnancy discrimination california

Pregnancy should be a time of joy and anticipation, but for some women, it can become a period of stress and uncertainty if they face discrimination at work.


If you have been fired while pregnant in California, you may be wondering about your rights and whether you can take legal action.


This blog will provide an overview of the laws protecting pregnant employees in California, potential compensation for wrongful termination, the importance of consulting with an employment attorney, and steps you can take to protect your rights.



Understanding Pregnancy Discrimination California

What does it mean when you discriminate against pregnant women in the workplace?


Pregnancy discrimination occurs when an employer treats a pregnant employee unfavorably because of her pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. This can include firing, demotion, harassment, retaliation, or any adverse employment action. Fortunately, California has robust laws that protect pregnant workers from discrimination.

Reasonable accommodation for pregnant employees

Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees who need them. This may include modifying work duties, providing time off for medical appointments or pregnancy-related conditions, and allowing more frequent bathroom breaks. If an employer fails to provide these accommodations, they could be held liable for pregnancy discrimination.

Laws on Pregnancy Discrimination California

Female employees who become pregnant are protected in their jobs by several California mandates, including:

California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)

FEHA prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. This applies to employers with five or more employees and covers all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, promotions, and working conditions.

Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL)

PDLL is a federal law that requires employers to provide up to four months of unpaid leave for employees who are disabled by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. During this leave, employees have the right to reinstatement to the same or a comparable position.

California Family Rights Act (CFRA)

CFRA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth of a child or to bond with a new child. This parental leave or maternity leave can be taken in addition to the leave provided under PDLL.

California Paid Family Leave (PFL)

PFL provides up to eight weeks of partial wage replacement benefits to employees who take time off to bond with a new child. This program is funded through employee payroll deductions.

Can You Sue If You Get Fired While Pregnant
in California?

Yes. If you have been fired while pregnant in California, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit for pregnancy discrimination.


To succeed in a claim for pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, you will need to prove that your pregnancy was a substantial motivating reason for your termination. This can be established through direct evidence, such as statements made by your employer, or circumstantial evidence, such as the timing of your termination.


Other key elements of a successful California pregnancy discrimination claim are showing that you were treated differently from similarly situated non-pregnant employees and that your employer did not have a legitimate reason for firing you.

Potential Compensation for Pregnancy Discrimination

potential compensation for pregnancy discrimination

If you prevail in a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit, you may be entitled to various forms of compensation, including:

  • Lost Wages: Compensation for the income you lost as a result of your termination, including back pay and front pay (future lost earnings).
  • Emotional Distress Damages: Compensation for the emotional pain and suffering caused by the discrimination and wrongful termination.
  • Punitive Damages: In cases where the employer’s conduct was particularly egregious, you may be awarded punitive damages to punish the employer and deter similar behavior in the future.
  • Reinstatement: In some cases, you may be entitled to reinstatement to your former position or a comparable position

Real-Life Cases of Pregnancy Discrimination California

To provide a clearer picture of violations of the pregnancy discrimination act and potential outcomes of pregnancy discrimination lawsuits, let’s look at some real-life cases.


In 2019, a jury awarded a pregnant employee of a car parts company $873,000 in compensatory damages and $185 million in punitive damages after she was demoted shortly after announcing her pregnancy and then later terminated after she challenged her demotion. The jury found that the employer’s stated reasons for her termination were pretextual and that her pregnancy was a substantial motivating factor in the decision.


In another case in February 2023, female representatives at Merck were awarded a $6.2 million settlement for pregnancy and gender discrimination in a class action. This payout followed the court’s certification in July 2019 of the plaintiffs’ claims of pay discrimination, supported by evidence showing women were paid less than their male counterparts.

The Role of an Employment Attorney in a California Pregnancy Discrimination Case

Fired while pregnant? Handling cases of pregnancy discrimination California can be complex, and having an experienced employment attorney on your side can make a significant difference. Here are some ways an attorney can help:

  • Legal Advice and Guidance: An attorney can provide you with a thorough understanding of your rights under California law and guide you through the legal process.
  • Evidence Gathering: An attorney can help you gather the necessary evidence to support your claim, including witness statements, documentation of your performance, and communications with your employer.
  • Negotiation and Settlement: An experienced attorney can negotiate with your employer on your behalf to seek a fair settlement. If a settlement cannot be reached, your attorney can represent you in court.
  • Advocacy and Representation: An attorney will advocate for your best interests and ensure that your case is presented effectively, whether in negotiations or at trial.

Taking Action and Suing for Pregnancy Discrimination: Protecting Your Rights

If you believe you have been discriminated against or wrongfully terminated due to your pregnancy, here are some steps you can take:

  1. Document Everything: Keep detailed records of all interactions with your employer, including emails, performance reviews, and any incidents of discrimination or harassment.
  2. File a Complaint: You can file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) within one year of the discriminatory act. The DFEH will investigate your complaint and may attempt to resolve the issue through mediation.
  3. Consult an Attorney: Contact an experienced pregnancy discrimination attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case and determine the best course of action.

Were You Fired Because You Were Pregnant?
Our Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyers Can Help You
File a Claim. No Fees Until We Win.

Pregnancy discrimination is not only illegal but also morally unacceptable. If you have been fired while pregnant in California, you have the right to seek justice and compensation for the harm you have suffered.


By understanding your rights and taking appropriate action, you can hold your employer accountable and protect your future.


If you believe you have been a victim of pregnancy discrimination, don’t wait to seek help. Contact the experienced employment attorneys at RTM Law Firm today for a free consultation.


We are dedicated to fighting for the rights of pregnant employees and ensuring that you receive the compensation you deserve.


Call us at (855) 786-9467 for a free and confidential consultation.




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