Yes, there is a version of maternity leave in California for fathers
The structure of American society has changed dramatically over the last several decades.
A greater percentage of fathers are now taking off time from work to care for and bond with their newborn children.
According to the United States Department of Labor, 90 percent of fathers take off at least some time from work, and 30 percent of fathers take off two weeks or more.
The laws have changed as well.
Parental leave is not just for mothers. If you are a new father in Southern California, you may be eligible for job-protected parental leave — and potentially even paid benefits.
Here, our California employment law attorneys highlight some of the most important things new fathers need to know about their right to take parental leave.
Paternity Leave Law: California
California paternity leave law is complex. While our state has long been on the cutting edge of parental leave — California was the first U.S. state to pass a paid family leave program — navigating the paternity leave process can be confusing and challenging. A part of the reason for this is that there is not one ‘paternity leave law’.
Indeed, there are several different state and federal labor laws that could potentially grant a worker the right to take paternity leave. More specifically, the three primary laws that provide paternity leave rights to new fathers in California are:
- The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): Passed into law in 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that grants new parents up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. The birth or adoption of a child qualifies for family leave under the FMLA. However, this law only applies to companies with 50 or more employees who are within a radius of 75 miles. In addition, it applies to workers who been employed for at least 12 months and worked at least 1,250 hours over the most recent year.
- The California Family Rights Act (CFRA): The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) is California’s state-level version of the FMLA. Though there are some differences, for the purposes of paternity leave, the two laws are broadly similar.
- The New Parent Leave Act: Finally, the paternity leave California 2017 reforms extended the protections to many more workers in the state. California’s New Parent Leave Act extends unpaid parental leave to employees at companies that have between 20 and 49 workers within 75 miles. These are workers who are not covered by the FMLA or by the CFRA. To be eligible for paternity leave under this law, you must have been employed for more than 12 months and worked for at least 1,250 hours in the last year. Building on existing law, it is estimated that this reform extended parental leave protections to nearly 3 million more California workers.
Can New Fathers Access Paid Leave in California?
While more and more companies are voluntarily offering paid parental leave as part of their overall compensation package — Bloomberg reports that the number of companies offering paid parental leave is at a record high — many employers in California do not offer fathers paid paternity leave through their employer. Though, if you choose to do so, you can generally collect your paid time off benefits while taking leave.
Further, California does have a state-level paid parental leave program. As noted by the Employment Development Department (EDD), workers may be eligible for paid family leave benefits through California’s State Disability Insurance (SDI) program. This program offers bonding time for new parents. Indeed, up to six weeks paid paternity leave may be covered by the fund.
Taking Paternity Leave in California? You Should Provide Notice
When taking paternity leave, it is best to plan ahead. Under state and federal law, new fathers have a duty to provide reasonable notice of their intent to take family leave. What is ‘reasonable’ notice? It depends entirely on the circumstances of the case. Generally, you should try to give notice at least 30 days in advance of your plans to take parental leave.
However, there are certainly situations in which it may be acceptable to give very little advanced notice to your employer. For example, if an infant was born 60 days prematurely and they have a serious health issue, it is entirely understandable that a father may need to exercise their right to take family leave on an emergency basis, without being able to provide much warning to their employer.
For workers, it is advisable to try to provide notice as early as possible. While you can give notice verbally to your supervisor, it is always a good idea to put it into writing. Within your written notice, you should:
- State the date you plan to begin paternity leave;
- Note the anticipated duration of that leave; and
- Include a brief explanation of why you are taking leave.
Denied Paternity Leave: Were Your Rights Violated?
If you sought California paternity leave, and you believe that you were improperly denied leave, you were wrongly denied pay/benefits, or you suffered an adverse employment action as a result of exercising your right to take paternity leave, it is imperative that you consult with a California employment lawyer immediately.
California workers generally have the right to be reinstated at their previous position after their paternity leave ends. Though paternity leave may be unpaid in many cases, covered employers are legally prohibited from taking any adverse employment action against workers who use family leave. Even if a position was eliminated in some type of corporate restructuring, the company must take proactive steps to find the worker a comparable position.
The bottom line: California employers cannot punish employees for taking family leave, including paternity leave. If you were punished or suffered any type of adverse employment action, a Los Angeles retaliation and wrongful termination lawyer can help.
Get Help From a Los Angeles Paternity Leave Attorney Today
At Workplace Rights Law Group LLP, our Los Angeles employment lawyers are committed to offering California workers the same sophisticated legal representation that major companies get from the biggest law firms. We have extensive experience handling cases related to California’s paternity leave laws.
To schedule a free, fully confidential review of your employment law case, please contact our law firm today. With offices in Riverside and Glendale, we serve communities throughout Southern California, including in Los Angeles County, San Bernardino County, Ventura County, Orange County, and Riverside County.