New Law Requires Employers To Provide Paid Group Health Insurance To Employees On Pregnancy Leave

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On October 6, 2011, Governor Brown signed into law SB 299, which imposes new obligations upon employers regarding group health insurance for employees who become disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. Currently, employers subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) must pay for group health insurance premiums for up to 12 weeks for eligible employees who take FMLA or CFRA leave. C.C.R. §7291.12(c).

Effective January 1, 2012, employers will be required to maintain and pay for health insurance coverage for eligible female employees who take pregnancy disability leave (“PDL”) for a period not to exceed four months over the course of a 12 month period commencing on the date the PDL is first commenced. Unlike the FMLA or CFRA, which affects employers who employ 50 or more employees, the PDL applies to employers with only five or more full-time or part-time employees. Further, failure or refusal to provide paid group health insurance for eligible employees may arguably be considered “harassment” based on pregnancy and constitute an unlawful employment practice and subject employers with as few as one employee to liability. C.C.R. §7291.3.

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