Paternity Leave in California

paternity leave

If you have become a new father through birth, adoption, or foster care, paternity leave has numerous long-lasting benefits. Taking paternity leave is vital to building a bond with your child and helping to take an active role in the first few weeks after your child’s arrival. Significantly, both California state law and federal law afford many new fathers 12 weeks of unpaid paternity leave.

What is Paternity Leave?

“Paternity leave” is the term that refers to time off from employment for a biological father, adoptive father, or foster father to allow them to care for their new child. While maternity leave is time off that a woman takes while she is considered “disabled” due to pregnancy or the birth of a child, paternity leave is not to be confused with disability leave. Rather, it is a type of family leave.

Under the California Family Rights Act and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, fathers are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of family leave. This is unpaid parental leave which can be used to spend time with a new child, care for a family member with a serious health condition, or obtain treatment for a serious health condition.

What are the Requirements for Paternity Leave?

An employer must have at least five employees to be considered a “covered employer” under California law for the purposes of paternity leave. To be eligible for this type of leave, the employee must also have been employed by the company for more than one year before the date the leave starts and have worked 1,250 hours or more within the year.

While there is no legal requirement that a father take all 12 weeks of paternity leave at once, all of the time must be taken within one year from the child’s date of birth or arrival. In addition, an employer can require a worker to take time off in blocks of two-week periods. However, an employee also has an opportunity to take a leave of less than two weeks on any two occasions.

California’s Paid Family Leave Program

While family leave is generally unpaid, there are certain situations in which an employee may be eligible to receive family leave benefits. Under California’s Paid Family Leave Program, some employees may be able to receive up to eight weeks of paid leave to care for a new child, with a benefit amount of approximately 60-70% of their weekly wages.

To be eligible for the Paid Family Leave Program, a father must have:

  • Welcomed a new child through birth, adoption, or foster care placement within the last 12 months.
  • Made payments into State Disability Insurance in the prior five to 18 months.
  • Not taken the maximum amount of paid family leave time (eight weeks) within the previous 12 months.

While California’s Paid Family Leave program offers monetary benefits, it does not provide job protection. However, these rights are safeguarded under state and federal employment laws.

What Rights Do Fathers Have When They Return from Paternity Leave?

In most cases, an employee has the right to be reinstated to the same — or similar — job once they return from paternity leave. The job must also provide similar compensation, benefits, schedule, and responsibilities. Critically, an employer who violates a worker’s rights upon returning from paternity leave can be subject to legal action.

An employee who has had their family leave rights violated may be entitled to file a lawsuit. However, it is usually necessary to first file a complaint with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing before commencing an action in court. If the DFEH cannot resolve the case, it will issue a “right-to-sue” letter allowing the employee to bring a civil claim.

Employers in California are also prohibited from taking any adverse employment actions against an employee for exercising their right to take paternity leave. For example, in the event that an employee has been retaliated against, terminated, demoted, or their pay has been reduced, they may be able to recover their damages in a civil lawsuit.

Contact an Experienced California Employment Law Attorney

Every father should be afforded paternity leave to bond with a new child without fear of repercussions in the workplace. If you were not permitted to take paternity leave — or were subjected to a negative employment action upon your return — you may be entitled to file a lawsuit.

A knowledgeable employment law attorney can discuss your legal rights regarding paternity leave — and your available remedies if these rights have been violated. Providing skilled counsel and high-quality legal services, Optimum Employment Lawyers is dedicated to helping workers with a variety of employment law matters in California. Contact us at (949) 954-8181 to schedule a consultation and learn how we can help.