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Maternity leave in the California Workplace

January 26, 2024

Maternity leave is a type of leave that allows new mothers to take time off from work to bond
with their newborn child and recover from childbirth. In California, employees have the right to
take maternity leave under state and federal law, and there are specific steps that employees
can follow to request this leave.
In this blog post, we’ll provide step by step instructions on requesting maternity leave in the
California workplace.

Step 1: Know Your Rights

The first step in requesting maternity leave is understanding your rights under the law. In
California, employees have the right to take maternity leave under the California Family Rights
Act (CFRA) and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
The CFRA applies to employers with 5 or more employees, and it allows eligible employees to
take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for the birth, adoption, or foster care
placement of a child.
The FMLA applies to employers with 50 or more employees, and it allows eligible employees to
take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for the birth, adoption, or foster care
placement of a child, or to care for a family member with a serious health condition.
To be eligible for maternity leave under either law, you must have been employed by your
employer for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to
your leave.

Step 2: Notify Your Employer

Once you know your rights and determine that you are eligible for maternity leave, the next
step is to notify your employer of your intention to take leave. Under both the CFRA and the
FMLA, you are required to give your employer at least 30 days’ notice of your intention to take
leave, if possible.
If you are unable to give 30 days’ notice due to a medical emergency or other unexpected
circumstances, you should give notice as soon as possible.
When you give notice to your employer, you should include the following information:
The date you plan to start your leave
The expected duration of your leave
The reason for your leave (such as the birth or adoption of a child)
Whether you plan to take your leave all at once or on an intermittent basis

You should also provide your employer with any supporting documentation that may be
required, such as a doctor’s note or a copy of your adoption papers.

Step 3: Understand Your Employer’s Policies

In addition to state and federal law, your employer may have its own policies regarding
maternity leave. It’s important to familiarize yourself with these policies so that you know what
to expect during your leave.
For example, your employer may have a policy that allows you to use paid time off (such as
vacation or sick leave) during your maternity leave, or that requires you to exhaust your paid
time off before taking unpaid leave. Your employer may also have a policy that requires you to
provide a certain amount of notice before returning to work after your leave.

Step 4: Know Your Options if Your Leave is Denied

If your employer denies your request for maternity leave, or if you believe that your rights
under the CFRA or the FMLA have been violated, you have several options for seeking recourse.
Some options include:
File a complaint with the DFEH or the EEOC: If you believe that your employer has violated your
rights under state or federal law, you may be able to file a complaint with the DFEH or the
EEOC. These agencies can investigate your complaint and take appropriate action if they find
that your rights have been violated.
File a lawsuit: If you believe that your employer has violated your rights and you are unable to
resolve the issue through other means, you may be able to file a lawsuit in court. An
experienced employment lawyer can help you understand your legal options and represent you
in court if necessary.

Step 5: Consider Your Benefits and Pay During Leave

When taking maternity leave, it’s important to consider how your benefits and pay will be
affected. Under the CFRA and the FMLA, your employer is required to maintain your group
health insurance coverage during your leave, and you will be responsible for paying your share
of the premiums.
If you have paid time off, such as vacation or sick leave, you may be able to use this time during
your maternity leave to receive partial pay. If you don’t have paid time off or if you exhaust
your paid time off, your leave will be unpaid.
In some cases, you may be able to receive partial pay during your maternity leave through the
California Paid Family Leave program. This program provides up to six weeks of partial pay toeligible employees who are taking leave to bond with a new child or to care for a seriously ill
family member.

Maternity leave is a valuable benefit that allows new mothers to take time off from work to
bond with their newborn child and recover from childbirth. In California, employees have the
right to take maternity leave under state and federal law, and there are specific steps that
employees can follow to request this leave. By following these steps and understanding your
rights and employer policies, you can ensure that you receive the maternity leave that you are
entitled to under the law.

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