Can my employer fire me for being pregnant or taking maternity leave?

If starting a family is in your plans, one of your concerns could be the security of your job. When your employer learns that you are pregnant, and that you plan on taking time off of work for maternity leave, what’s stopping them from simply firing you now so as not to have to pay for your time off or hold your position for you until you get back?

California and federal law

There are California state laws and federal laws that both protect the rights of employees who are pregnant or who take maternity leave. For example, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act establishes specific penalties for employers who terminate the employment of one of their workers in order to avoid having to grant them maternity leave.

In other words, if you lose your job after you inform your boss that you are pregnant, you could hire an attorney and bring a lawsuit for wrongful termination against your former employer. Your attorney would likely be able to use these laws to prove that your employer violated the law by firing you, and you might be able to receive a recovery.

When they are justified in firing you

An important thing to note is that these laws do not make it illegal to fire you for any reason simply because you are pregnant. In other words, even if you are pregnant, your employer could still terminate you for other reasons unrelated to maternity leave.

If you bring a wrongful termination suit against your former employer, they will most likely attempt to justify their decision to fire you by showing reasons why they would have fired any employee, regardless of whether that employee were pregnant or not. Your attorney’s job would then be to demonstrate that your pregnancy played a significant factor in their decision to fire you.

Having a child is a big step, and there are many things to consider. At least you can rest easy knowing that your career won’t be in danger.