Paternity leave is the time a new father takes time off from his job for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of his new child. Traditionally, when it comes to the subject of leave for a new child, the rights of fathers were often overlooked in favor of the rights of mothers as there used to be a greater emphasis on the rights of mothers to take maternity leave.

Because of that traditional view, many men in California may not realize they have a legal right to take an extended period of absence from work for both childbirth and bonding time. In some cases, men in California also have receive pay during paternity leave.

We will take a close look at the rights of fathers and discuss the laws protecting paternity leave for California employees. In California, there is still a significant difference between maternity leave for women and paternity leave for men, but that is largely due to the fact that women can be physically disabled by pregnancy, so they can be eligible for disability leave, whereas men cannot. However, make no mistake; men in California have a legal right to take up to 12 weeks of family leave, which can be used to care for your spouse with a serious health condition or to bond with your new child. The choice is yours.  

California Paternity Leave Laws

Paternity leave in this article applies to men, but some laws may cover same gender paternity leave seekers as well. There are three primary laws that protect the rights of new California fathers to take paternity leave:

  • The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides fathers with a federal right for eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to attend to certain family obligations, like caring for a spouse with a serious health condition, as well as the birth or adoption of a child.
  • The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) is kind of the state version of the FMLA. It provides most of the same rights, including a right for any eligible employee to take as much as 12 weeks of unpaid paternity leave.
  • The New Parent Leave Act is very much the same as the CFRA, and it extends protection to employees of smaller workplaces, specifically, those employers with between 20-49 employees, while the CFRA applies only to employers with 50 or more employees.

How Much Paternity Leave Can I Take and Can I Get Paid Leave?

Just because there are three laws designed to protect a father’s right to 12 weeks of family leave does not mean you can take 36 weeks of leave. However, all eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of work. In some cases, employees may be entitled to pay or benefits during their paternity leave, but that right is wholly separate from the right to take leave in the first place. Some eligible employees can receive up to $1,252 per week for up to six weeks through the Paid Family Leave Act by applying with the EDD.

Who is Eligible For Paternity Leave?

Since Jan. 1, 2018, any employee who is taking paternity leave to bond with a new child after its birth, adoption, or foster care placement with the employee must meet certain requirements. For one thing, the employer must have 20 or more employees working within 75 miles of the employee’s worksite. Also, the employee must have worked with the employer for during the previous 12 months and worked 1,250 hours or more during that time. If all those requirements are met, the employer will usually have to provide up to 12 weeks of paternity leave. 

How Much Notice Should I Give My Employer When Taking Paternity Leave?

Employees in California who would like to take paternity leave must provide their employer with reasonable notice of their intention. Employers are within their rights to require at least 30 days’ notice for paternity leave. The notice should include the time and length of the leave that you anticipate taking, and the facts needed to make the employer aware of the employee’s need for paternity leave.

While notice can be made verbally, it is a much better idea to put it in writing and to go through your employer’s normal HR process for giving notice of leave. If your employer were to wrongfully terminate you, retaliate against you, demote you, or harass you for taking paternity leave, giving written notice and documenting all conversations and actions by your employer is important for your case.

Returning from Paternity Leave

Most employees have a guaranteed right to be reinstated with their employer when they return from paternity leave, which means the employee is entitled to the same or a comparable position. If the employer chooses to reinstate the employee in a different position, the new position must be equivalent to the employee’s former position in most ways, including the same pay and benefits, as well as the same shift, schedule, geographic location, and working conditions.

Additionally, if the employee returns to work and is no longer qualified for their job because they missed some training or other circumstances, they must be given a reasonable opportunity to get up to speed and fulfill those requirements. 

Also, see our CA Employee’s Guide to Returning from Medical Leave for more information about your rights to reinstatement of your job.

Questions About Your Right to Take Paternity Leave?

If you believe your current or former employer wrongfully terminated, demoted, harassed, discriminated against or wrongfully terminated you for taking paternity leave, it’s important to discuss the situation with an experienced attorney who can give you a comprehensive look at your options. Contact us today at (949) 936-4001 or to talk about your paternity leave or other employment issue.

Whitehead Employment Law is a premier firm with a wealth of legal talent dedicated to labor and employment law. We have settled and tried cases winning millions of dollars in awards for clients whose employers have violated California labor laws.  Many of these types of situations are ideal for class action treatment. We take most of our cases on a contingency basis, which means we don’t get paid unless we win the case for you.

Contact us at Whitehead Employment Law today at 949-936-4001. Consultations are free and confidential.