Pregnant Employees May be Entitled to Additional Leave

An employee who was disabled as a result of her pregnancy and had exhausted all leave under California Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (“PDLL”) and the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) was entitled to additional leave as a reasonable accommodation under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), the California Court of Appeal has ruled in a case of first impression. Sanchez v. Swissport, Inc., No. B237761 (Cal. Ct. App. Feb. 21, 2013).

Sanchez sued Swissport for pregnancy discrimination and failing to accommodate her pregnancy-related disability in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). The company asked the trial court to dismiss the case, arguing, that pregnancy disability leave is capped at four months. Sanchez was terminated only when after her pregnancy disability leave expired and she the Company believed that she was not able to return to work. The trial court agreed with the company and dismissed the case. Sanchez appealed.

The Court of Appeals concluded that Sanchez could pursue her claims for pregnancy-related disability discrimination based on her termination, as well as on the company’s denial of additional leave as a reasonable accommodation and its failure to engage in the interactive process to determine an effective accommodation