Hello and thank you for entrusting me to answer your question.
The California Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL), contained in the Fair Employment and Housing Act, applies to employers who employ five or more employees and applies to all employees, irrespective of the amount of time they have been employed. PDLL requires employers to provide for up to four-months of protected leave per pregnancy that can be taken on a continual basis or in smaller increments, as needed.
Specifically, Government Code 12945 states as follows:(a) In addition to the provisions that govern pregnancy,
childbirth, or a related medical condition in Sections 12926 and
12940, each of the following shall be an unlawful employment
practice, unless based upon a bona fide occupational qualification:
(1) For an employer to refuse to allow a female employee disabled
by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition to take a
leave for a reasonable period of time not to exceed four months and
thereafter return to work, as set forth in the commission's
regulations. The employee shall be entitled to utilize any accrued
vacation leave during this period of time. Reasonable period of time
means that period during which the female employee is disabled on
account of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition."
An employee who invokes their right to take leave under the PDLL cannot be terminated in retaliation for taking such leave.
Furthermore, an individual in your circumstance is typically entitled to an additional 12 weeks of leave to bond with your babies pursuant to the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).
In order to be eligible for CFRA baby bonding leave, the employee must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months, and have worked for at least 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months at a location where at least 50 employees are employed by the employer within 75 miles.
Assuming the application of both of these laws, the employment action you describe is almost certainly illegal. Although an employer technically remains free to eliminate positions for budgetary reasons while a pregnant or recently pregnant employee is out on leave pursuant to the above laws, termination under such circumstances will face extremely heavy scrutiny.
An individual in your circumstance would benefit greatly from retaining a local employment law attorney because the chances that you have a case worth pursuing are rather high.
For attorney referrals, visit this link: http://apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/lris/directory/main.cfm?id=CA
or visit http://www.martindale.com
I particularly like Martin Dale because the site allows you to search attorneys by practice area and also provides attorney ratings.
When you contact the attorneys, ask if they offer free consultations. Most should, and this way you can get at least some feel for the attorney's expertise and enthusiasm for your particular case before you commit. Also, you will probably want an attorney who is willing to take your case on a contingency fee basis--this means that you won't have to pay for their services until you win, and if you don't win, you won't have to pay them any attorney fee.
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