Discrimination based on pregnancy is illegal under both the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the Federal Title VII laws
This includes discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
Even discrimination based on the "potential" for pregnancy is illegal. For example, in one case a manufacturing company would not allow women to work certain jobs because if they were pregnant there could be harm to their fetus. This was illegal discrimination. Additionally it is unlawful for an employer to ask a prospective employee whether or not she is or intends to become pregnant.
Employers have a number of responsibilities to employees who become pregnant. For instance, if a woman becomes pregnant, and with the advice of her doctor asks for a position that is less strenuous or hazardous, the employer must transfer her to another position if it has one, or can make one without being "unduly burdened". Basically, if its not too much trouble for the employer to accommodate the woman's needs, he has to do it.
Pregnancy Family Medical Leave
Federal Title VII Law does not explicitly require employers to grant Pregnancy leave, although it does prohibit Pregnancy discrimination. However, the Federal Law does require employers to grant medical leaves, which are applicable to pregnant women (See separate section on family and medial leave.)
The California FEHA specifically gives pregnant employees the right to take a leave of absence for a reasonable period of time, not to exceed four months. The employer does not have to pay his employee during this time.
A "reasonable period of time" is the time period where the woman is "disabled" because of her pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. "Disabled" in this context simply means she cannot work. During a Pregnancy leave, a woman may also use any vacation time she has accrued.
Employers can require any employee who plans to take a pregnancy leave to give the employer reasonable notice of the date the leave will start and how long it is expected to last.
Employers generally cannot force a pregnant employee to go on pregnancy family medical leave. It is there if the woman wants it. However, if the employer can show that the woman absolutely cannot do her job, or is "disabled" by the pregnancy, he may be allowed to make her take a leave of absence. This is, however, a very difficult situation for the employer, because it is likely that the Pregnancy can somehow be accommodated, which means the woman should be allowed to stay.