Thank you very much for your reply.
The Pregnancy Disability Leave Law codified at Government Code 12945 permits pregnant employees to take up to four months of job leave, during which such employees cannot be terminated as a result of their absence. The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) provides for additional protected "baby bonding" leave, but as you correctly note, this leave is available only to employees who work at companies with 50 or more employees.
If an employee is not eligible for baby bonding leave, their employer is free to release them, even during Paid Family Leave, if the employee is absent for more than 4 months. This is so because, while Paid Family Leave provides wage replacement, it does not provide job protection in the same way as the other forms of leave discussed above. Thus, a change of duties, suspension or termination following the expiration of the 4 months of PDL is probably not illegal.
With regard to denying an offer for work and retaining your ability to collect unemployment benefits, the issue boils down to whether the work was "suitable." Only where an employee denies "suitable" work will they be disqualified from receiving benefits.
The Unemployment Insurance Code defines "suitable employment" as follows:
"Suitable employment" means work in the individual's usual occupation or for which he is reasonably fitted, regardless of whether or not it is subject to this division.
In determining whether the work is work for which the individual is reasonably fitted, the director shall consider the degree of risk involved to the individual's health, safety, and morals, his physical fitness and prior training, his experience and prior earnings, his length of unemployment and prospects for securing local work in his customary occupation, and the distance of the available work from his residence, and such other factors as would influence a reasonably prudent person in the individual's circumstances."
The EDD in its Benefits Determination Guide (linked below) provides that work shall be deened unsuitable if any of the following conditions exist:
- The offer of employment is from an employer who does not possess an appropriate state license to engage in the business, trade, or profession.
- The offer of employment is from an employer who does not withhold or hold in trust the employee contributions required for unemployment compensation disability benefits and does not transmit all such employee contributions to the department for the Disability Fund as required. (Note: This requirement does not apply to out-of-state employment or government employment.)
- The offer of employment is from an employer who does not carry either workers' compensation insurance or possess a certificate or self-insurance as required by the Labor Code.
- The position offered is vacant due directly to a strike, lockout, or other labor dispute.
- The wages, hours, or other conditions of the work offered are substantially less favorable to the individual than those prevailing for similar work in the locality.
- The individual, as a condition of being employed, would be required to join a company union or to resign from or refrain from joining any bona fide labor organization.
See here for the above plus additional discussion regarding "suitable" work: http://www.edd.ca.gov/UIBDG/Suitable_Work_SW_5.htm
If the work is not "suitable" pursuant to the above definition, then refusal to accept that work will NOT result in disqualification of benefits.
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