Skip to main content

Lopez v. La Casa de Las Madres (CA1/3 A163133 partial pub. 3/16/23) Pregnancy Discrimination

Gabriela Lopez filed the underlying action for employment discrimination and wrongful termination against La Casa de Las Madres (La Casa).  La Casa is a non-profit organization that provides services to women and children who are victims of domestic violence.  Lopez worked for La Casa at various times between 2002 and 2017.  In 2014, she accepted the position of shelter manager at La Casa’s residential shelter for domestic violence victims.  In September 2016, Lopez gave birth to a baby girl.  Thereafter she did not return to work due to events that gave rise to this action.  Following a bench trial, the court entered judgment in favor of La Casa.  On appeal, Lopez contends the trial court misapplied provisions of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) that require an employer to provide reasonable accommodations for a pregnancy-related condition.  (Govt. Code, § 12940 et seq.; subsequent statutory references are to this code.)  We affirm the judgment.

In the published portion of our decision, we observe there are no California cases articulating the elements of a pregnancy discrimination claim under section 12945, subdivision (a)(3)(A) (section 12945(a)(3)(A)).  Drawing from the statutory language and applicable regulatory law, as well as pertinent FEHA case law, we conclude a cause of action under section 12945(a)(3)(A) requires proof that:  (1) the plaintiff had a condition related to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition; (2) the plaintiff requested accommodation of this condition, with the advice of her health care provider; (3) the plaintiff’s employer refused to provide a reasonable accommodation; and (4) with the reasonable accommodation, the plaintiff could have performed the essential functions of the job.  Here, the trial court applied a correct understanding of these elements and, contrary to plaintiff’s contentions otherwise, properly placed the burden on plaintiff to prove that she had a condition related to pregnancy and that she was able to perform the essential functions of her job with reasonable accommodation.  (See e.g. Green v. State of California (2007) 42 Cal.4th 254, 262, 264 (Green).)

In the unpublished portion of this opinion, we reject Lopez’s argument that she proved La Casa engaged in an unlawful employment practice under section 12945 and section 12940 by failing to accommodate Lopez’s pregnancy-related disability.