Good News for Employees Disabled by Pregnancy: Your Leave of Absence May Be Longer Than the Four Months Provided by the Pregnancy Disability Leave Law

Ana Fuentes Sanchez took a pregnancy disability leave of absence while working for Swissport, Inc. When she exhausted her four months of leave mandated by the Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL) she was still unable to return to work because of the nature of her high risk pregnancy.

Swissport terminated Ms. Sanchez after the expiration of her four month leave of absence, contending that it had provided her with all that the law required under the PDLL.

But Ms. Sanchez asked what about the other provisions of the Fair Employment & Housing Act? Doesn’t Govt. Code § 12940(m) require that an employer provide a reasonable accommodation to a disabled employee? (Yes.) Wasn’t Ms. Sanchez – due to her high risk pregnancy – a disabled employee? (Yes.) And isn’t it true that a leave of absence is, under the law, a reasonable accommodation? (Yes, again.) And – last but not least – can’t a reasonable accommodation consist of a leave of absence greater than four months? (Yes! See Hanson v. Lucky Stores (1999) 74 Cal.App.4th 215, 227 ; andWatkins v. Ameripride Services (9th Cir. 2004) 375 F.3d 821, 828-829).

So wasn’t it about time for a published case to declare that – if not an undue hardship on the employer – a disabled pregnant employee should be entitled to more than four months of a pregnancy related disability leave?

This is just what the Court held in Sanchez v. Swissport (2-21-13) ____ Cal.App.4th______ . The Court explained that the pregnancy leave law was meant to supplement, not limit or displace, other provisions of the Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Good for the Court! Good for Ms. Sanchez! And great news for everyone else, including pregnant women, all women employees, and their families!


Jody I. LeWitter

March 27, 2013