Pregnant Employees Are Entitled To Take Leave
Sanchez v. Swissport, Inc.
(Cal. Ct. of App., 2d Dist.), filed February 21, 2013
Anna Sanchez worked for Swissport as a cleaning agent. In February 2009, she was diagnosed with a high-risk pregnancy, requiring bed rest. After her diagnosis, she requested and received a temporary leave of absence from Swissport. She was given just over 19 weeks of leave, consisting of her accrued vacation time in addition to the time allotted by the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and Pregnancy Disability Leave Law. However, when that time ran out, she was fired.
Sanchez sued Swissport for (1) discrimination based on pregnancy and pregnancy-related disability, (2) discrimination based on sex, (3) failure to prevent discrimination, (4) failure to accommodate and engage in a timely, good faith interactive process, (5) retaliation, (6) wrongful and tortious discharge, (7) intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), (8) unfair business practices under California Business and Professions Code section 17200 et seq., and (9) breach of implied and/or express contract. She alleged that Swissport had actual knowledge that she was anticipated to deliver her baby on or about October 19, 2009 and needed a leave of absence lasting until she gave birth. She also alleged that “at no time, prior to the termination of her employment, did [Swissport] ever contact Plaintiff to engage her in a timely, good faith interactive process in order to identify available accommodations, such as the extended leave of absence she had requested, so that she could remain employed.”
The trial court dismissed Sanchez’s case after sustaining a demurrer by Swissport. It found that Swissport had provided Sanchez with all of the leave mandated by the PDLL and the CFRA, and therefore had satisfied all of its obligations under the FEHA.
HOLDING & REASONING
The Court of Appeal reversed. It noted that the case was one of first impression, in which it was asked “to determine whether an employee who has exhausted all permissible leave available under the Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL), Government Code section 12945, may nevertheless state a cause of action under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), section 12900, et seq.”
After reviewing the applicable laws, the court concluded that Sanchez was entitled to leave beyond what was provided in the PDLL and CRFA and that because Swissport had not afforded her that time, it could be subject to liability.
This opinion confirms how difficult it can be for California employers to successfully interact with their employees.