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Is There a Right to Paid Paternity Leave in California?

Paternity Leave for New Dads in California

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.

How Long Is Paternity Leave in California?

Under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), most new dads who have worked at their employer for at least 1 year and 1,250 hours are entitled to 12 weeks of paternity leave to help their partner recover from childbirth or to bond with their new baby. In addition, 8 of these weeks are partially paid through the State Paid Family Leave program. The other 4 weeks may be unpaid. 

What Laws Provide New Dads with the Right to Paternity Leave in California?

CFRA Leave

All private employers with more than 5 employees must provide 12 weeks of job-protected CFRA leave to new parents. All employees who have worked for 1,250 hours in the past 12 months are eligible to use CFRA leave. This means that you have "job-protection," and your employer cannot fire you or retaliate against you for using your 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, a new dad 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.

It also means that if you are not eligible for CFRA leave when your child is born, most people will become eligible for baby-bonding leave later in their baby's first year as long as they stay at the same job. For example, imagine you started a new full-time job in March 2020 and your baby was born in September 2020. You would not be eligible for baby-bonding when your baby was born (although you could use a few days of sick leave during this time), but you would become eligible to use your baby-bonding leave in March 2021, after one year of employment.

Paid Family Leave Law

The Paid Family Leave Law provides income replacement through the EDD--the same agency that administers unemployment and disability benefits--for eight weeks of leave. But unless you are eligible for job protection under CFRA, your employer is not required to keep your job open during your paid family leave. 


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?

  • Improved relationships: 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.
  • Boost for women's careers: 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.
  • Family support: 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.).

Talk to a Lawyer. Free Case Reviews.

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.


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