Legally speaking, paternity leave is the time a new father takes off work for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a new child. Though few men take paternity leave, both state and federal law provide new fathers with a right to take paternity leave. California's Paid Family Leave law even entitles a new father to partial pay, up to a cap, during his paternity leave.
Is There a Right to Paternity Leave?
In California, almost all new parents are entitled to up to 12 weeks of leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to bond with a new child or care for a spouse or domestic partner with a serious health condition. For new fathers, paternity leave may be used for either purpose: to help a partner recover from childbirth, or to bond with a new baby.
All private employers with more than five employees must provide job-protected CFRA leave to new parents. All employees who have worked for 1,250 hours in the past 12 months are eligible for leave.
CFRA leave that is taken for baby bonding must be taken within a year of the child's birth. Generally, employees using CFRA leave must take leave in minimum increments of two weeks at a time, although employees have the right to take shorter leaves of two occasions.
This means that, for instance, a father may take a week off to help his partner and attend emergency medical appointments if she is disabled by pregnancy, and then take another two weeks off when his child is born, and then take the remaining nine weeks when his partner returns to work following her pregnancy disability leave and baby bonding leave.
New fathers may take up to eight weeks of partially-paid leave by applying through the Paid Family Leave program administered by the EDD. This leave runs concurrently with CFRA leave (at the same time), meaning that the remaining four weeks of leave are unpaid.
For parents outside of California, fathers who have worked for a year at employers with more than 50 employees within 75 miles of the father's worksite are eligible for unpaid leave under the FMLA. Like CFRA, the FMLA may be used to care for a spouse's serious medical condition as well as for baby bonding.
What are the Benefits of Taking Paternity Leave?
Evidence shows that paternity leave can create lasting and positive impacts in families and societies. When surveyed, men generally report that they *want* to be involved in their children's lives and would like to take paid parental leave if it were offered to them. Studies show that taking paternity leave lays the groundwork for later involvement in a child's life. In addition, fathers who are closer to their children report having happier marriages and better health outcomes.
Improved paternity leave policies also greatly improve women's participation in the workforce and reduce the wage gaps that arise after women have children. For instance, studies of Swedish families show that a mother's earnings increase by approximately 6.7% for each additional month of paid parental leave taken by the child's father.
Based on these studies, researchers believe that “[e]xpansions of [paid] parental leave policies may provide the structural support that parents need to enact their desires to share equally in both domestic and paid labor, ultimately benefiting parents, families, and children.” This is especially true for “economically disadvantaged families, who often face economic and social constraints that make it difficult to fulfill the dual responsibilities of breadwinning and caregiving.”
Paternity Leave Discrimination is Illegal
Discrimination against partners who take leave is common. It is also illegal. We have represented numerous partners who were discriminated against for taking even a handful of weeks off to bond with their new babies or support their partners who were recovering from childbirth. Some were fired; others were demoted or lost other benefits of employment. This is discrimination and retaliation.
Legally, paternity leave discrimination is either of two claims: (1) retaliation for taking CFRA/FMLA leave, or (2) gender discrimination based on a father not conforming to outdated or patriarchal gender norms. Plaintiffs alleging paternity leave discrimination must prove that (1) they took paternity leave and (2) their paternity leave or involvement in childrearing was a motivating factor in an adverse employment action (e.g., a termination, demotion, pay cut, etc.).
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We help victims of paternity leave discrimination. Our mission is to fight for working families and protect their right to support their children.
If you have experienced paternity leave discrimination, contact us today through our website or give us a call at (213) 214-3757 to schedule a free consultation.