Pregnancy is a time of anticipation and excitement for expectant mothers. However, it can also bring job security concerns, especially if you fear getting fired before taking your maternity leave. In California, several laws protect pregnant employees’ rights to answer: “What happens if I get fired before maternity leave?” You should be familiar these “labor laws” and your rights during pregnancy and after childbirth to ensure a smooth transition into motherhood with as little mental or financial stress as possible.
This article discusses your California employment rights during pregnancy to help you navigate legal scenarios effectively and determine whether you should pursue legal action.
At-Will Employment: Can a Company Fire You Right Before Maternity Leave?
Before delving into the specifics of your California employee rights, it’s essential to understand California’s employment landscape. The state operates on an “at-will” employment basis. It means that the employer or the employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any reason or no reason. However, there is a critical caveat: terminations must not be due to employment discrimination, retaliation, or in violation of state or federal laws, in violation of an employment contract, or in violation of public policy. Termination for these reasons can be considered wrongful termination, and provide a basis for an employment law claim,
It might sound alarming. However, various exceptions protect pregnant employees from unjustified termination, especially before maternity leave. Employment lawyers in California can help you navigate these legal complexities successfully.
What Happens if I Get Fired Before Maternity Leave?
If you get fired before maternity leave, the best way to help yourself out is by educating yourself about employment law. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal government agency that administers the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, has various guidelines regarding discrimination, harassment, and retaliation to protect employees.
Learn about your California employee rights and laws that protect you in your workplace against discrimination. Moreover, as a California employee, you must understand California employment law specifically, as every state has differences.
Here are some California laws regarding termination of pregnant women you can consider:
Pregnancy Discrimination Laws
In California, pregnancy discrimination is unlawful under both state and federal law. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protect pregnant employees from workplace discrimination. These laws make it illegal for employers to discriminate against you based on your pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
Under these laws, your employer cannot fire employees just because they are pregnant or about to take maternity leave. If they do, it constitutes pregnancy discrimination, a clear violation of employee rights and labor laws.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and California Family Rights Act (CFRA)
The FMLA and CFRA allow eligible workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth and care of a newborn child. You must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months and logged at least 1,250 hours in the past year for eligibility. However, this employment law does not guarantee job protection for all employees, as these laws only apply to employers depending on how many employees work for the company. In addition, they don’t protect employees who do not meet other eligibility requirements, such as length of time employed or hours worked.
Suppose you meet the eligibility criteria and take maternity leave under FMLA or CFRA. If so, your employer must reinstate you to your previous or equivalent position in such cases upon your return. Moreover, it offers some protection if you’re fired before maternity leave, as it can be seen as retaliation for requesting leave for your pregnancy.
Protection from Retaliation
The most crucial protection workers have is the prohibition against retaliation. Your employer can’t fire you because of your pregnancy, your intention to take maternity leave, or for filing a complaint about pregnancy discrimination. If they do so, they are breaking the law.
Furthermore, retaliation can take various forms. It includes termination, demotion, harassment, creation of a hostile work environment, or other adverse employment action.
You should document any incidents that might suggest that you were treated differently and report them to your HR department or a relevant authority. This documentation will be valuable for a law firm helping you in any legal proceedings that might follow.
California employers are also obligated to provide reasonable accommodation for temporary disability of pregnant workers. Asking for adjustments to your work environment or duties due to pregnancy-related conditions is your right. A reasonable accommodation can include changing a work schedule to accommodate morning sickness or reassigning duties to co workers comply with lifting restrictions. Your employer must make reasonable efforts to accommodate these needs. Firing you for requesting or requiring reasonable accommodations is unlawful.
Paid Family Leave (PFL)
In California, eligible employees can receive up to eight weeks of paid family leave through the state’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) program. While PFL provides income replacement during your maternity leave, it doesn’t guarantee job protection. However, knowing you have financial support can offer peace of mind during this critical time.
What to Do if You Get Laid-Off Right Before Maternity Leave?
If you get laid off right before maternity leave due to discrimination, or you think your employer has violated your legal rights, you should seek legal help from a reputable law firm to determine your legal options.
Legal action may be crucial for pregnant employees to seek justice and protect their rights. Understanding the legal avenues for redress is essential when an employer unlawfully fires or takes adverse employment actions. Here’s a more detailed explanation:
Consultation with an California Employment Law Attorney
The first step for a fired pregnant employee is to consult with an experienced employment law attorney who specializes in pregnancy discrimination cases and retaliation cases. Employment lawyers representing employees in California are well-versed in the intricacies of employment law. They can provide expert guidance on what is legally allowed based on the unique circumstances of your case.
Assessment of Your Situation
Your employment law attorney will carefully assess the details of your situation. This will include event timelines, relevant communications, and evidence regarding pregnancy discrimination or retaliation. Furthermore, they also go through circumstantial evidence that may reveal discriminatory patterns or pretextual reasoning behind employment decisions.
This assessment helps determine the strength of your case and the appropriate legal strategy.
Filing a Complaint
Depending on the circumstances and the severity of the discrimination or retaliation, your attorney may recommend filing a complaint with the appropriate government agency. In California, this typically involves the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). These agencies investigate discrimination claims and can sometimes facilitate resolution through mediation or negotiation.
Pursuing a Lawsuit
If mediation and negotiation can’t resolve issues through the initial complaint process, your employment law attorney may recommend pursuing a wrongful termination lawsuit against your employer. It involves filing a formal lawsuit in state or federal court, which leads to further litigation proceedings that your attorney will guide you through. During employment law cases, both parties will discovery and present evidence and may make arguments before a judge or jury to determine the outcome.
Choose the right attorney who knows how to navigate employment law and related cases effectively.
If your employment lawyer is successful, you may be entitled to various remedies, including:
Reinstatement: You could be reinstated to your previous or comparable position.
Back Pay: You may receive back pay for lost wages and benefits.
Front Pay: You may sometimes be awarded front payment, compensating for future lost wages.
Compensatory Damages: You may receive compensation for emotional distress, pain, and suffering.
Punitive Damages: In cases of egregious misconduct, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the employer.
Attorneys fees: You may also be entitled to recover attorneys fees and costs.
Employers often consider out-of-court settlements prior to trial in employment cases. It could reduce potential negative publicity or decrease the expense of hiring lawyers.
Regardless of the reason, settlement negotiations can result in a mutually agreed-upon resolution. A settlement will include compensation and other terms, but having a legal representative improves the process significantly. Moreover, an employment law attorney can help ensure your rights are always protected, and you receive the compensation you deserve.
Having a skilled employment attorney by your side is invaluable throughout the entire legal process. They will advocate for your rights and negotiate on your behalf. Furthermore, they ensure that you receive the best possible outcome.
Attorneys can take the case to court if the settlement doesn’t yield your desired results. You can also file a class action lawsuit if you find other employees of your company who’ve suffered similar scenarios. These lawsuits can yield substantial results and are more effective when handled with expert legal guidance.
Contact Bourassa Law Group for Expert Legal Guidance
What happens if you face wrongful termination before maternity leave? This question is disturbing for countless pregnant women, even when pregnancy is a time of immense change and joy.
The prospect of losing your job just before maternity leave can be daunting. However, California labor law is designed to protect pregnant employees from illegal discrimination and unjust termination. Understanding your rights granted by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, FMLA, CFRA, and the prohibition against retaliation is essential.
If you find yourself in a situation where you believe you’ve been fired unjustly due to your pregnancy, don’t hesitate to seek legal counsel. An experienced employment law attorney can help you navigate the complex legal landscape. Moreover, these experts can ensure that your California employee rights are upheld.
Contact Bourassa Law Group, a reputable law firm, if you need legal assistance as a pregnant employee. Our experienced employment lawyers in California are here to provide guidance and support during this crucial time in your life.
Employment law matters, and we are committed to helping you protect them. Contact us today for a consultation.
The Bourassa Law Group
9440 Santa Monica Blvd #301
Beverly Hills CA 90210
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