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Can my employer reduce my pay?

Pacoima, CA |

im coming back from maternity leave and my boss said that my pay will be reduced when i come back to work.

Attorney Answers 3


  1. Yes, generally speaking, an employer in California can prospectively reduce your rate of pay. There are some exceptions if the motivation is premised upon unlawful discrimination. But so long as unlawful factors were not considered (i.e, race, gender, age, handicap), employers can consider any number of factors in deciding whose pay to reduce and by how much.

    In California, if you are "at will," your employer can fire you, demote you, reduce your hours or pay rate, without notice and for any reason. Likewise, you are free to quit without notice for any reason.

    The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author (who is only admitted to practice law in the State of California). For specific advice about your particular situation, consult your own attorney.


  2. To expand on Mr. Chen's response: Please look at my Avvo guide on California's at-will employment law, which should help you understand your rights in this situation, as well as in the future. http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/a-short-summary-of-california-at-will-employment.

    Also, pregnancy discrimination is unlawful under California and federal law.

    FEDERAL RIGHTS: In 1978, Congress amended the Civil Right Act of 1964, Title VII 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e—17, by passing the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, "discrimination" means to treat a pregnant employee differently from non-pregnant employees, and adversely. The employee must be able to make a connection between the discriminatory treatment and the protected status (being pregnant). In other words, the employee will have to show that her pregnancy is reason the employer is treating her adversely. There are various ways to do this. Negative comments from supervisors or management; a sudden change in treatment (for the worse) as soon as or shortly after the employer learns about the pregnancy or the effects of pregnancy; or other incriminating conduct. This law is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). www.EEOC.gov

    For information on pregnancy discrimination, see:
    http://eeoc.gov/laws/types/pregnancy.cfm

    For information on the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, see:
    http://eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/pregnancy.cfm

    Under federal law, leave taken for an employee's incapacity due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions is governed by the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. section 2101 et seq. (FMLA), just like leave for any other “serious health condition” of an employee. See my Avvo guide to the FMLA for more information: http://www.avvo.com/pages/show?category_id=6&permalink=family-and-medical-leave-fmla-summary-of-key-provisions.

    CALIFORNIA RIGHTS: California employers must comply with federal law, as above, and also must comply with state law. The California pregnancy disability leave law, Government Code section 12945(a) (PDLL), is part of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, California Government Code sections 12900, et seq. (FEHA). The PDLL requires employers to provide employees up to four months of unpaid leave for disability caused by pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical conditions.

    Under some circumstances, an employer may be required to transfer an employee affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions to a different job.

    California has its own family and medical leave law, the California Family Rights Act, Government Code section 12945.2 (CFRA). It is substantially similar to the FMLA, but an employee's incapacity due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical condition is not included in the definition of “serious health condition.” This is usually beneficial to the employee because CFRA leave and pregnancy disability leave are two separate and distinct rights under California law. They do NOT run concurrently, as they do under the FMLA. Instead, an employee in California may take four months of PDLL plus 12 weeks of family leave, provided of course that the employee meets the other conditions of these laws.

    So, as Mr. Chen said, if your employer reduces your pay because of your pregnancy, that would be unlawful. If the reduction is because it isn't doing well financially, that would be lawful (probably). Did others have their pay reduced, or just you?

    Employment law is complicated and fact specific. You may wish to speak with an experienced plaintiffs employment attorney. To find a plaintiffs employment attorney in California, please go to the web site of the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA). CELA is the largest and most influential bar association in the state for attorneys who represent working people. The web site is www.cela.org, and you can search for attorneys by location and practice area.

    *** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***


  3. Please provide more background details so the question can be better answered.

    This is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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