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Step-by-Step Guide to Requesting Pregnancy Leave in California under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)

July 6, 2023

If you are pregnant and need to take time off from work in California, you may be eligible for pregnancy leave under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). FEHA requires employers with five or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations, including pregnancy leave, to employees with disabilities. In this blog post, we’ll outline the step-by-step process for requesting pregnancy leave under FEHA in the California workplace.

Step 1: Determine if you are eligible for pregnancy leave.

The first step in requesting pregnancy leave is to determine if you are eligible. To be eligible for pregnancy leave under FEHA, you must have a qualifying disability related to your pregnancy, child birth, or related medical conditions that requires you to take time off from work. A disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, or a medical condition that requires accommodation.

Please note that in addition to leave, you are entitled to other reasonable accommodations, such as reasonable accommodations of work restrictions (e.g. modification of your duties, chair if your job allows for it, more frequent breaks to allow use of the bathroom).

Step 2: Request pregnancy leave from your employer.

If you are eligible for pregnancy leave, the next step is to request the leave from your employer. You can do this either orally or in writing, but it’s usually best to put your request in writing. In your request, be sure to specify the dates you need to take off, the reason for the leave, and any other relevant information. You should also provide any medical documentation supporting your request, such as a doctor’s note or disability certification.

You may request Pregnancy Disability Leave which provides for up to 4 months of leave for pregnancy-related complications, severe morning sickness, or other disabilities related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. 

Health care providers generally approve leave for 10-12 weeks for a normal pregnancy (usually 4 weeks before childbirth, 6 weeks after vaginal delivery or 8 weeks after a Caesarian section).

Step 3: Consider your employer’s response.

After you have made your request for pregnancy leave, your employer should respond within a reasonable time. Your employer may approve your request, deny your request, or ask for additional information. If your employer denies your request, they must provide you with a written explanation of their decision and the legal basis for it. If your employer asks for additional information, you should provide the requested information as soon as possible.

Step 4: Seek legal advice.

If your employer denies your request for pregnancy leave or you have any other questions or concerns about the process, it’s important to seek legal advice. An experienced employment attorney can review the facts of your case and advise you on your rights and options under FEHA. They can also help you gather any additional evidence and represent you in legal proceedings, if necessary.

Step 5: Consider your options for pursuing a claim.

If you believe your employer has unlawfully denied your request for pregnancy leave, you may have several options for pursuing a claim. You may be able to file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or you may be able to file a lawsuit in court. Your attorney can advise you on the best course of action based on the specific circumstances of your case.


Requesting pregnancy leave in California under FEHA can be a complex process, but by following the steps outlined in this blog post, including determining your eligibility, making a written request, and seeking legal advice if necessary, you can protect your rights and ensure that your employer provides you with the reasonable accommodations you need.

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