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Maternity leave laws- CA California

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  • Maternity leave laws- CA California

    I am the office manager of a small medical office with 8 employees. One of our employees became pregnant and her doctor has classified her as a "high-risk" pregnancy. She brought me a note from her doctor early on in her pregnancy saying that her work should be restricted as much as possible to seated work, with little walking around and no lifting. She is a medical assistant who does both front and back office work. When I got that note, I attempted to accomodate her by ensuring she always works in the front office, seated at a desk. Our other medical assistant now does all back office work.

    This situation has started to cause tension in the office. Our other medical asst feels the distribution of work is unfair (which has some truth to it), and it is beginning to put a strain on office morale.

    I'm confused about what my options are. I believe the only law governing us in CA is the law regarding Pregnancy Disability Leave. But am I correct in thinking that we can not FORCE an employee to take this leave, and it only begins when her doctor says so?

    Thank you so much for your help.

  • #2
    You need not burden another employee in order to make an accommodation. The law actually doesn't require that you accommodate in this case but rather that you grant leave if the employee is unable to perform their duties. Unless in a coma, an injured/sick employee can pretty much always perform some aspect of their job. What is reasonable isn't up to the doctor but rather the employer. The doctor doesn't get to dictate how you run your business. If making another employee perform all the most arduous tasks for months isn't reasonable (and that sounds like the case) then you don't need to abide by it.
    I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

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    • #3
      Follow up question

      Thank you for your quick response.

      So would a possible solution be for me to tell her that: If at her next appt, her doctor does not clear her to resume her normal job functions, we would like to place her on leave? Can an employer force an employee to take an extended medical leave like that or can we only offer it? Would she be able to collect disability during that time?

      Thank you again for all your help.

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      • #4
        Yes, you can place her on leave. Her options are to go on leave or resign. She can not force you to allow her to work light duty. Whether she qualifies for disabilty pay or not is another matter and doesn't have any bearing on whether or not you may place her on leave.
        I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

        Comment


        • #5
          FMLA/CFRA will not apply since there are not enough employees.

          The PDL under the Fair Employment & Housing Act: An employer must provide up to four months disability leave for a woman who is disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. *(subject to med. cert. that an actual disability exists)* However, if an employer provides more than four months of leave for other types of temporary disabilities, the same leave must be made available to women who are disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.

          A woman who works for a covered employer is eligible for pregnancy disability leave regardless of the length of time she has worked for the employer. Further, an employee does not have to work full-time in order to be eligible.
          (This is unpd. job protected leave.) Applies to employers with 5 or more employees.

          She should be able to collect SDI while she is out on disability leave. It's for disability not related to the job.
          Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

          Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

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          • #6
            Re my post above, here's a link with info on Ca SDI:

            http://www.edd.ca.gov/pdf_pub_ctr/de2515.pdf
            Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

            Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

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            • #7
              Thank you

              I have only posted on labor law talk twice, but I read it often and when I started my first job with HR functions, I can't tell you how helpful this site was. To all the experts who donate your time and knowledge to this site- Thank you. I hope you know how much it is appreciated!

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              • #8
                Thank you for saying that. We're glad we could help.
                Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

                Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Elle, your advice here is completely erroneous. CA law DOES require employers to accommodate pregnancy. It's called Pregnancy Disability Leave. Unless there is an undue hardship, the employer has an affirmative duty to accommodate, as with any other disability. Forcing the employee on leave in this case would certainly put the employer in hot water. Tension amongst employees is not an undue hardship. Rearranging work duties is a very common accommodation.

                  Op, you were on the right track to begin with. If you can accommodate her, which it seems you have been, you must continue the accommodation. Do not force this employee on leave. You're asking for trouble if you do that.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Quoted from another site encapsulating CA's PDLL:

                    California pregnancy disability leave (PDL) also requires that employers transfer you to a less hazardous or strenuous position within the company during your pregnancy, if necessary. In other words, your employer must make reasonable accommodations when you are having a baby. The only excuse a company has to deny reasonable accommodations is if it can prove such accommodations would put an undue burden or strain on the organization.

                    So the question the OP has to answer is whether continuing to accommodate the pregnant employee has created an "undue hardship" on the organization. The unhappiness of employee who has been assigned the back office work for the duration and any tension it is creating is not going to constitute an undue hardship.

                    CAmedical, I can only suggest you tell the overburdened employee that it's not going to last forever and as soon as the pregnant employee comes back from leave, things will be back to normal. You can also tell him/her that if the situation were reversed, you'd be doing the same for him/her.

                    Comment

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