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New San Francisco Employment Laws

San Francisco tends to be on the forefront of passing new employment laws to protect San Francisco workers. The following are two new San Francisco Employment Laws that companies and workers in San Francisco need to consider.

New San Francisco Employment Laws No. 1:

Mayor Lee signed the “Lactation in the Workplace Ordinance” on July 30, 2017.  This “first of its kind in the country” ordinance establishes new standards to ensure employers accommodate lactation.

The ordinance amends the Police Code to require employers to provide employees lactation breaks and a location for lactation. Employers must have a policy regarding lactation in the workplace that specifies a process “by which an employee will make a request for accommodation.” The ordinance defines minimum standards for lactation accommodation spaces and requires that tenant improvements or renovated in buildings designated for certain uses include lactation rooms. The ordinance also outlines lactation accommodation best practices.

The ordinance becomes operative on January 1, 2018. 

You can review the full ordinance here.

New San Francisco Employment Laws No. 2:

On July 14, 2017, Mayor Lee signed the “Employer Consideration of Applicant’s Salary History Ordinance,” also known as the “Consideration of Salary History Ordinance“.  This ordinance (which also becomes operative on July 1, 2018, applies to employers in San Francisco and to the City and County of San Francisco’s contractors and subcontractors. The intention is to “ensure that an individual’s prior earnings, which may reflect widespread, longstanding, gender-based wage disparities in the labor market, do not continue to weigh down a woman’s salary throughout her career.”

The ordinance amends the Police and Administrative Codes and ban employers from considering current or past salary of an applicant in determining whether to hire an applicant or what salary to offer the applicant. The ordinance prohibits employers from asking applicants about their current or past salary. Employers cannot disclose employee salary history without that authorization (unless the salary history is publicly available).

You can review the full ordinance here.

You can review some of my prior articles about some of the San Francisco Employment Laws passed over the years:

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Pleasanton, Oakland, San Ramon, Hayward, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

Expensive Disability Accommodation Lesson

Caltrans in Nevada County learned the hard way that you cannot ignore an employee disability accommodation requests. More importantly, you can’t retaliate against an employee for requesting an accommodation. An article in the Sacramento Bee provides many of the details. I’ve written several articles regarding the importance of proper accommodation policies and procedures in the workplace.

Employee Awarded $3million in Disability Accommodation Lawsuit

John Barrie claimed his supervisors harassed him and ignored his requests for accommodations related to his allergies. Mr. Barrie has severe reactions to certain smells, such as chemical cleaners and perfumes. Although Nevada County Caltrans accommodated Mr. Barrie for years, Barrie alleged supervisors started harassing him and denying the disability accommodations in 2010. Barrie allegedly sought help internally through various channels, but the harassment continued. The jury believed Mr. Barrie, and awarded him $3million for the retaliation and harassment related to his allergies.

Allergies Can Constitute a Disability

State and federal laws broadly define “disability.” In short, a disability is any medical condition–psychological or physiological–that impairs one or more major life functions. Severe allergies can impair major life functions such as breathing. Some people experience severe skin rashes, headaches, nausea and vertigo from allergic reactions.

Disability discrimination laws require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities. Failing to provide reasonable accommodations, and in some instances failing to engage in the interactive process of determining what disability accommodations are appropriate, is a violation of the law.

From the pleadings, it appears Caltrans HR department tried to accommodate Mr. Barrie. A regional administrator affirmed his allergies in 2011, and wrote an order compelling workplace accommodations. Barrie alleged his supervisors ignored the order, and retaliated against Barrie by giving him job duties outside his normal scope and moving him to less convenient job sites.

Every Disability Accommodation Request is Serious

Supervisors oftentimes fail to recognize they must treat every disability accommodation request seriously. While HR may know the requirements, ensuring supervisors comply with the law can be difficult. In Barrie’s case, an HR note revealed that Barrie’s supervisors wanted to discipline Barrie for going to HR because he went outside the “chain of command.” I suspect this factored heavily in the juries $3million award. Employers cannot retaliate against employees for requesting accommodations or raising complaints in the workplace.

If you require a workplace accommodation, or if your employee requests an accommodation, talk with an attorney familiar with disability accommodation and discrimination issues.

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law. We cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice over the Internet. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

Using this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. Using the Internet or this blog to communicate with the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Do not post confidential or time-sensitive information in this blog. The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Pleasanton, Oakland, San Ramon, Hayward, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

Inability to Work Under Particular Supervisor Not a Disability

A California court recently reaffirmed that the inability to work under a particular supervisor because of anxiety and stress related to the supervisor’s standard oversight of job performance—is not a disability recognized under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA; Gov. Code, § 12900 et seq.).

Higgins-Williams worked as a clinical assistant for Sutter Medical Foundation’s Shared Services doing patient intake. In 2010, Higgins told her doctor she was stressed because of interactions at work with human resources and her manager.  Her doctors diagnosed her as having adjustment disorder with anxiety, and Higgins went on a stress-related leave of absence under the California Family Rights Act and the Family Medical Leave Act. The doctor reported Higgins’ disabling condition as “…stress[] when dealing with her Human Resources and her manager.”

When Higgins returned to work, she received her first negative performance evaluation since she began working at Sutter.  Higgins believed she was being singled out, and that her supervisor “was curt and abrupt with plaintiff, while being open and friendly with plaintiff’s coworkers, and gave plaintiff a disproportionate share of work.”  Plaintiff requested a transfer to a different department for “…forever”), a schedule of 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and another leave of absence.  Plaintiff made the requests in order to accommodate her alleged disability: adjustment disorder with anxiety.

Sutter granted the leave of absence, but refused to transfer her to a different department with a different manager.  Higgins’ doctor continued to extend the leave of absence because Sutter never agreed to transfer Higgins to a different department with a different manager.  The doctor opined that although Higgins could return to work as a clinical assistant, the doctors was concerned about Higgins’ ability to do so in the same department as her regional manager.  Sutter eventually terminated Higgins because there was no indication Higgins would ever be able to return to her job.

Inability to Work Under Particular Supervisor Not a Disability

Higgins sued Sutter for disability discrimination and failure to accommodate.  The appellate court held:

An employee’s inability to work under a particular supervisor because of anxiety and stress related to the supervisor’s standard oversight of the employee’s job performance does not constitute a disability under FEHA, citing Hobson v. Raychem Corp. (1999) 73 Cal.App.4th 614, 628 [“the inability to perform one particular job, or to work under a particular supervisor, does not constitute a qualified disability” under FEHA].

Because the court determined the plaintiff did not have a “disability,” the remaining disability-related causes of action were dismissed.

California and federal law define “disability” very broadly, but that doesn’t mean every stress or anxiety requires an accommodation.  When the requested accommodation is a different supervisor, courts are reluctant to hold an employer liable for disability discrimination.  Employers must take every request for a disability accommodation seriously.  When properly conducted, the employer and employee should engage in an interactive process to determine what reasonable accommodations will enable the person to perform the essential functions of the job.

The Nuddleman Law Firm represents employers and employees regarding disability accommodations and discrimination.

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Pleasanton, Oakland, San Ramon, Hayward, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

New Paid Sick Leave Law Causes Anxiety for Employers

California workers are often faced with a difficult decision: I don’t feel well and I don’t want to go to work where I will get other people sick, but I can’t afford to miss any work. In order to remedy this malady, the California legislature passed AB 1522 creating the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, which requires all employers to provide at least 24 hours of annual paid sick leave to all employees. Unfortunately, the new law was poorly drafted, causing confusion. The Labor Commissioner set up a FAQ page that helped a little, but still didn’t answer important questions.

Just about every employer client I have called me in the weeks leading up July 1st with questions about what they needed to do to comply with the law, and the answers were not always simple. Then, 13 days after employers were required to begin providing paid sick leave, governor Brown signed AB 304 modifying the statute. Although I suspect the purpose of the amendment was to clarify the law, California’s Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 leaves the most ardent HR professionals lightheaded.

HEADACHES

For employers that did not previously offer any type of paid time off, the new law seems fairly simple: Employers must provide at least 24 hours of paid sick leave every year. Simple, right? But what about employees working in San Francisco, Oakland, Emeryville, San Diego or any other city that has passed its own local ordinances requiring a hiring amount of paid sick leave?

If a company has employees working in different cities, even if the employees perform as little as two hours per week in one of the cities that has passed its own paid sick leave ordinance, the employer has to either adopt the highest city requirement and apply that across the board, or have different policies for different employees depending on how much time they spend in each different city. Now an employer has different accrual rates and leave caps for different employees. No chance an employer will make a mistake, right?

HOURLY EMPLOYEES

At what rate must employer’s pay out the paid sick leave? For hourly employees, you would assume the hourly rate is the employee’s regular rate of pay. In fact, the original statute defined “Paid sick days” as “time that is compensated at the same wage as the employee normally earns during regular work hours.” Section 246(k) also says, “[t]he rate of pay shall be the employee’s hourly wage.” Simple, right? It was until the legislature amended subsection k.

Now, the employer has three different methods to choose from:

(k) For the purposes of this section, an employer shall calculate paid sick leave using any of the following calculations:
(1) Paid sick time for nonexempt employees shall be calculated in the same manner as the regular rate of pay for the workweek in which the employee uses paid sick time, whether or not the employee actually works overtime in that workweek.
(2) Paid sick time for nonexempt employees shall be calculated by dividing the employee’s total wages, not including overtime premium pay, by the employee’s total hours worked in the full pay periods of the prior 90 days of employment.
(3) Paid sick time for exempt employees shall be calculated in the same manner as the employer calculates wages for other forms of paid leave time.

You’ll notice that there are two different calculations an employer can choose from for nonexempt employees:

  1. the employee’s regular rate of pay; OR
  2. divide the employee’s total wages, not including overtime premium pay, by the employee’s total hours worked in the previous 90 days.

What does that second option mean? It’s a bit confusing, so let’s use an example. Alice’s regular rate of pay is $12.00 per hour, and she typically works 50 hours per week—40 regular hours and 50 overtime hours. Her regular weekly paycheck is $660.00 [($12 x 40) + ($18 x 10) = $660].

Under the amended statute, the employer is only supposed to include “full pay periods of the prior 90 days of employment.” Let’s assume Alice is paid every week. That would mean that, at most, there are 12 full pay periods in the 90 days prior to the intended sick leave. So, Alice earned $7,920 in those 12 full pay periods ($660 x 12 = $7,920).

The statute then directs us to divide the employee’s total wages “not including overtime premium pay” by the total hours worked. Alice worked 600 hours in the 12 pay periods (50 per week x 12 weeks = 600). When you divide her total wages not including overtime ($5,760) by her total hours worked (600) her paid sick leave rate would be $9.60—$2.40 less than her regular hourly rate. So, if an employee regularly works overtime, the employer can actually pay less than the employee’s regular hourly rate if the employer chooses to use the (k)(2) method of calculating the paid sick leave rate of pay. Maybe the lower rate under (k)(2) rewards employers that are willing to “do the math,” but I don’t see many employers using this alternative calculation.

I’d give an example of what happens when you pay different rates for shift differentials, but it looks like my calculator has a headache.

COMMISSIONS, SALARIES AND PIECE RATES

But what about employees paid commissions, salaries or on a piece rate basis? Well, for salaried employees, the regular rate of pay is presumably the weekly salary divided by 40, as dictated by Labor Code section 515(d)(2). Employees receiving commissions or paid on a piece rate basis are more complicated. Get out your calculators.

There are typically two types of commissioned employees: inside sales and outside sales. While outside salespeople are exempt from overtime laws, inside sales people are only exempt if they are covered by either wage order 4 or wage order 7, more than 50% of their wages are paid in the form of commissions, AND the employee earns at least 1.5 times the current minimum wage. Although the Paid Sick Leave law has rules for employees exempt from overtime under the administrative, professional and executive exemption, it does not have rules for other exempt employees (some inside sales, outside sales, sheepherders, irrigators, etc.).

The Labor Commissioner says “If an employee is paid commission or piece rate, then divide total compensation for previous 90 calendar days by number of hours worked and pay this rate.” But, do you use the compensation earned or the compensation paid? Commissions are oftentimes earned before they are paid. Hopefully the employer’s commission agreements clearly identify when the commission is earned versus when it is paid, but neither the Labor Commissioner nor the statute answer this question.

For piece rate employees it is a little bit easier, divide the total amount earned in the previous 90 days by the total hours worked. If the employer is reporting the pieces and hours worked on the pay stubs as required by Labor Code section 226, then this shouldn’t be a problem. On the bright side, employers that were not previously tracking hours worked for their piece rate workers have a good excuse to change their policies so they can properly track paid sick leave.

WHAT IS A YEAR?

There are still other decisions that have to be made. What constitutes a year? The law became effective January 1st, but employers were not required to provide the paid sick leave until July 1st. Should the employer use a calendar year? A year based on the employee’s start date? A year beginning when the paid sick leave requirement became effective? Choosing the right “year” alters how the employer tracks accrued paid sick leave.

CAN I USE MY EXISTING PTO POLICY?

Will your existing PTO policy satisfy the requirements? In most cases, no, because most employees typically do not begin accruing paid sick leave on their first day of employment. Although employers can prohibit an employee from using the paid sick leave during the first 90 days of employment, the employee begins accruing the paid sick leave from day 1. Keep in mind, if an employer modifies its PTO policy to allow the employee to begin accruing PTO from day 1, and that employee stops working in the first 90 days, the employer has to pay out the unused PTO. If the employer decides to keep Paid Sick Leave separate from other paid leave, the employer would not have to pay out the Paid Sick Leave upon termination.

In order for a PTO policy to satisfy the Paid Sick Leave requirements, the PTO has to have the same 30:1 accrual rate required by the Health Workplaces, Healthy Families Act. Although an employer can cap the Paid Sick Leave at 48 hours, the 30:1 accrual rate would actually give the employee about 66 hours of Paid Sick Leave in a year (assuming the employee works 40 hours a day, 50 weeks per year). If you have a PTO policy that allows an employee to accrue 48 hours of PTO per year, the accrual rate is actually lower than the 30:1 Paid Sick Leave requirements.

The July 13th amendment provided a small safe harbor. If an employer had a pre-existing PTO policy that allowed the employee to accrue at least 8 hours of PTO within the first 3 months of employment and at least 24 hours of PTO within the first 9 months of employment, the employer can use the existing PTO policy to satisfy the Paid Sick Leave requirements. However, if the employer ever alters the accrual method used in that policy, then the employer has to default to the 30:1 accrual rate. This applies even if the employer provides a more generous PTO accrual rate than it previously provided.

Rob’s prediction? Litigation.

Although I don’t know that the value of a paid sick leave violation claim would justify a single-plaintiff lawsuit, you can bet there are class action attorneys waiting file suit when an employer makes a mistake. Keep in mind that the Health Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 is part of the Labor Code. That means an employee can sue under the Labor Code Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) and bypass the class action requirements. Even though the individual employee’s recovery may be minimal, even small errors can create significant liability given that the penalties will accrue every pay period for all employees.

BROAD RETALIATION PROVISION

I also predict we will see litigation regarding employers who ask employees for proof that the leave was for a qualifying reason. The Act has a very broad anti-retaliation provision:
An employer shall not deny an employee the right to use accrued sick days, discharge, threaten to discharge, demote, suspend, or in any manner discriminate against an employee for using accrued sick days, attempting to exercise the right to use accrued sick days, filing a complaint with the department or alleging a violation of this article, cooperating in an investigation or prosecution of an alleged violation of this article, or opposing any policy or practice or act that is prohibited by this article

There is a rebuttable presumption of retaliation for a variety of actions, including “if an employer denies an employee the right to use accrued sick days, discharges, threatens to discharge, demotes, suspends, or in any manner discriminates against an employee within 30 days of … (c) [o]pposition by the employee to a policy, practice, or act that is prohibited by this article.”

The Labor Commissioner has told employers that it is illegal to “deny sick leave due to a failure to provide details” regarding the need for the paid sick leave. The Act is silent as to whether an employer can require an employee to provide a doctor’s note for the absence, but the Labor Commissioner seems to be taking the position that if an employer asks an employee for the details of the leave (e.g., “Why do you need to take paid sick leave?”), and the employee refuses to provide the details, the employer must still pay the employee to take the time off work.

To be safe, employers should only ask for doctors’ notes once an employee has used the full 24 hours of paid sick leave.

Employment attorneys helping companies comply with the law have been inundated with phone calls and emails from clients that want to comply with the law. California’s new paid sick leave requirements confuse even the most seasoned HR professionals. I am glad the legislature took a stance on this important issue. Sick workers should not be forced to choose between paying rent or showing up to work where they can get other people sick. The idea behind the statute is good and honorable. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the legislature’s method is blemished.

Having thought this all through, I’m starting to feel a bit queasy myself. I think I need to take a sick day.

 

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Pleasanton, Oakland, San Ramon, Hayward, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

Pregnancy-Related Leave of Absence

FAQ’s Regarding Pregnancy Related Leave of Absence

California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave Act (PDLA) affords pregnant employees the opportunity to take a pregnancy related leave of absence for pregnancy-related disability leaves.  California law protects employees against discrimination or harassment because of an employee’s pregnancy, childbirth or any related medical condition (referred to below as “because of pregnancy”). California also law prohibits employers from denying or interfering with an employee’s pregnancy-related employment rights.

With few exceptions, employers must guarantee the employee’s position for up to 4 months while the employee is disabled as a result of pregnancy.  If the employer has 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius of the employee, the employer may be required to grant the employee an additional 12 weeks of unpaid time off to bond with the newborn child.  Although pregnancy disability leave is usually unpaid, employees may be eligible for state disability benefits.  Employees may also be eligible for up to 6 weeks of state disability benefits while the employee bonds with the child under California’s Paid Family Leave.

Employers and employees do not always understand their pregnancy leave rights and obligations.  The following answers some of the most common questions employees and employers have regarding California’s pregnancy disability leave law.

Does every employer have to provide pregnancy disability leave?

California’s PDLA is part of the Fair Employment and Housing Act.  Therefore, any business with 5 or more employees is required to comply with the PDLA and provide pregnancy disability leave.

Does the company have to publish or post its PDLA policy?

The PDLA requires employers to publish its PDLA policy in the employee handbook if the employer has a handbook. The PDLA also requires employers to post its PDLA policies in a place where employees can view the poster. The DFEH has created a sample poster employers can use.  There are two versions of the standard DFEH poster, depending on whether the employer has more than 50 employees working within a 75-mile radius.  The poster is typically included with the multi-law poster employers purchase.

The poster, and any PDLA policies, should explain the employee’s leave entitlement rights and obligations, when an employee is entitled to PDLA leave, and what happens to an employee’s benefits while on PDLA leave.

Once an employee notifies the employer that the employee requires time off work due to a pregnancy-related disability, the employer must guarantee in writing that the employee can return to work in the employee’s same position if the employee requests a written guarantee.

What happens to an employee’s health insurance benefits while the employee is on PDLA leave?

Employers are required to continue employee group health coverage during your PDL at the level and under the conditions that coverage would have been provided if the employee had continued in employment continuously for the duration of the PDLA leave.  If an employer normally pays 100% of the medical insurance coverage, then the employer must continue to pay 100% of the medical insurance coverage while the employee is on PDLA leave.  If the employee is responsible for a portion of the medical insurance premiums, then the employee will need to make arrangements to continue to pay her portion of the medical insurance premiums while on the PDLA leave.  If an employee fails to pay her portion of the health insurance premiums while on PDLA, the employer may cease making its payments and offer the employee the opportunity to continue coverage through COBRA.

How much leave is an employee entitled to take under the PDLA?

Employees may take “up to” 4 months of unpaid time off while the employee is disabled as a result of pregnancy.  Once the employee is no longer disabled as a result of pregnancy, the employee must return to work even if the employee has not exhausted the full 4 months of leave.

What if the has exhausted her leave before her doctor releases her to return to work?

Although the PDLA only requires the employer to provide up to 4 months of unpaid leave under the PDLA, if the employee’s medical condition qualifies as a “disability” under state or federal disability discrimination laws the employer may be required to provide additional time off work as a reasonable accommodation for the disability.  For example, some courts have held that post-partum depression is a disability, and employers may be required to provide additional time off work as an accommodation for the disability.

Does PDLA leave have to be taken all at once?

No.  PDLA leave may be taken on an as-needed basis as required by your health care provider, including intermittent leave or a reduced work schedule, all of which counts against your four month entitlement to leave.

What if the employee does not need to take time off work, but requires other accommodations?

The PDLA requires employers to reasonably accommodate medical needs related to pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions.  Some common accommodations include temporarily modifying work duties, providing a stool or chair, allowing more frequent breaks, transferring the employee to a less strenuous or hazardous position (where one is available).  The accommodations are required if medically needed because of the pregnancy, and should be supported by a note from the employee’s health care professional.

Does the PDLA allow an employee to take time off work to bond with the newborn?

No.  Although California employees may be eligible for up to 6 weeks of Paid Family Leave, PFL is not a protected leave.  If the employer has more than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of the employee, the California Family Rights Act requires the employer to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid family bonding leave.  So, if the CFRA applies, the employee could take 4 months of unpaid leave under the PDLA while she is disabled as a result of pregnancy, and then take an additional 12 weeks of unpaid family bonding leave under the CFRA.  Depending on whether the employee has any other disabilities, the employer may be required to provide additional time off determined on a case-by-case basis.

What kind of notice should an employee provide prior to taking PDLA leave?

When the need for the leave is foreseeable, the employee should provide at least 30 days’ notice prior to taking the leave.  When the need for the leave is not foreseeable, the employee should notify the employer of the need for the leave as soon as the need becomes known.

What kind of medical documentation is necessary in order to substantiate a pregnancy-related disability leave of absence?

Except in the case of a medical emergency, employers may require written medical certification from a health care provider substantiating the need for the leave before approving the leave.  The medical documentation only needs to provide sufficient information for the employer to determine that the leave of absence is for a pregnancy-related disability, and they type or amount of leave required (e.g., intermittent, estimated length of time, etc.).   The employer must provide at least 15 days for the employee to submit the medical certification.   The employer may also require a certification that you are able to return to work, with or without reasonable accommodations, after you are no longer disabled as a result of the pregnancy.

Are fathers entitled to time off under the PDLA?

No.  The PDLA only applies to employees who are disabled as a result of pregnancy.  Depending on the size of the employer, fathers may be entitled to time off under either the federal Family Medical Leave Act or the California Family Rights Act to help care for the mother of their child or to bond with the child.

Are employers required to provide any accommodations after the child is born?

Yes.  Employers are required to provide a reasonable amount of break time and use of a room or other location in close proximity to the employee’s work area to express breast milk in private.

Can the employer require an employee to use accrued paid sick leave for PDLA leave?

Yes.  An employer can require an employee to use accrued paid sick leave.  The employee can choose to use accrued vacation or other paid time off.

The company is about to go through a layoff.  If the employee takes PDLA leave, can the employer still proceed with the layoff?

Yes.  An employee on PDLA is entitled to the same rights and benefits the employee would have received had the employee not taken the leave of absence.  If the employer can establish that the employee would have been laid off regardless of the PDLA leave, there is no violation of the law.