California Adopts New Regulations Governing Pregnancy Disability Leaves
California's Fair Employment and Housing Commission recently proposed new pregnancy disability regulations. These proposed regulations underwent rounds of public comment and revision, but were recently finalized and approved by California's Office of Administrative Law. As such, the new regulations take effect December 30, 2012. California employers with 5 or more employees are required to provide up to 4 months of pregnancy disability leave to employees disabled by pregnancy or related conditions and there is no length of service requirement to be eligible for this leave. The new regulations detail the process an employer is required to follow in accommodating such leave requests, from initial certification through reinstatement. The regulations also clarify how "four months" is calculated for purposes of identifying the maximum amount of leave available to full-time and part-time employees. The regulations further make clear (based on a recently enacted California law) that employers are required to maintain group health benefits under the same terms as if the employee was actively reporting to work for up to 4 months, and that this requirement is in addition to any additional obligation to maintain health benefits during an an additionally approved FMLA/CFRA leave of up to 12 weeks. The new regulations contain a great amount of detail and guidance for employers trying to manage this leave process. Employers are advised to review the rules and their policies and practices to ensure compliance.
The FEHC also has proposed regulations pending on disability (non-pregnancy) leaves. Those rules are not yet final, but are available for employers who are interested in reviewing and possibly providing comment and/or proposed changes to the FEHC. A public comment period is currently underway through December 17, 2012. We will post developments here.