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Can I fire someone who is pregnant?

| Oct 21, 2020 | Employment Law |

One issue that could bring trouble for a California employer is terminating someone’s contract when they are pregnant. If the employee thinks that you fired them because they are pregnant, they could launch a wrongful termination lawsuit against you. Remember that the law protects pregnant employees from discrimination or retaliation.

California law requires employers to act in a certain way toward a pregnant employee. These are your obligations as an employer:

  • Make reasonable accommodation for their medical needs, such as allowing extra breaks and providing seating.
  • Offer them a position that is less hazardous and less strenuous where possible.
  • Give them pregnancy disability leave equivalent to the number of days they usually work in a third of the year. You must also give them their position back once their leave has ended.
  • Allow them time to express breastfeed and a suitable room to do it.

Despite this, you are still entitled to terminate someone’s contract even though they are pregnant. However, you will need to have evidence to prove that the decision is not related to the employee’s maternal state, and the timing is merely coincidental. You should also comply with the above requirements until the end of their contract.

Whenever you have problems with an employee, it is vital you record it. Log their actions, the conversations you have with them about their behavior or performance and any warnings issued. This way it should not come as a surprise when you do decide to fire them.

As an employer, you cannot predict which staff members will become pregnant and when. Nor should you try. If your human resources department does its job, you should have the evidence you need in case of legal problems when terminating the contract of an employee who happens to be pregnant.