Paternity Leave for New Dads in California
| Read Time: 5 minutes | Family Status Discrimination

Paternity leave for new dads in California is the time a new father takes off work for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a new child. An increasing number of fathers are choosing to take paternity leave, which is proven to have long-lasting benefits for kids and families. The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) entitles new fathers to 12 weeks of paternity leave to help their partner recover from childbirth and bond with their new baby. You must have worked at your employer for at least one year and 1,250 hours for this to apply. Paternity leave under the CFRA is unpaid. However, if a father qualifies for California’s Paid Family Leave, they can receive benefits for up to eight weeks. Payments are 60 to 70% of the father’s weekly wages over the last 5 to 18 months they worked. Here are other key FAQs about paternity leave in California.

How Long Is Paternity Leave in California?

Under the 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 you have “job-protection,” and your employer cannot fire 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 on 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, 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 or FMLA bonding time for fathers.

How Does Paternity Leave Work in California?

California fathers can apply for paternity leave or baby bonding time for fathers by doing the following:

  • Initiate a paternity leave application—eligible fathers should give their employers reasonable notice in writing that they intend to take leave, specifying the desired start and end dates of the leave.
  • Obtain and complete the necessary paternity leave application paperwork—paperwork typically includes forms provided by the employer or the relevant state agency, such as the California Employment Development Department (EDD). Keep in mind that the required forms can vary depending on your employer’s policies and the specific leave programs you apply for, such as CFRA and the Paid Family Leave program.
  • Submit the forms to the appropriate parties within the designated period—it’s essential to meet all deadlines set by your employer or the EDD to ensure the timely processing of your application.
  • Provide any needed additional documentation—to support an application, fathers may be required to submit supplementary records such as proof of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement. This can include birth certificates, adoption papers, or legal documents related to foster care placement.
  • Communicate regularly—maintain contact with your employer, the human resources department, and the EDD, if applicable, throughout the application process. This will ensure that you, your employer, and any agencies can promptly address needed clarifications, updates, or inquiries.

Following these steps and staying organized will help ensure a smoother application process and protect your right to leave as a new father, ensuring the opportunity to bond with your child during this significant life event.

When Can I Apply for Parental or Baby Bonding Leave for Fathers in California?

Eligible fathers who want to apply for paternity leave for new dads in California can plan ahead and should give their employers notice and apply for leave at least 30 days before the date they plan to take off. Fathers who need to take leave for sudden or unexpected reasons should give their employer notice as soon as is practicable.⁠ Whenever possible, proactively applying for parental leave at the earliest opportunity will maximize a father’s chances of enjoying uninterrupted time with their child. Note that once a father has given notice, an employer can require him to take his time off from work in blocks of two weeks and within one year.

What are the Benefits of Taking Paternity Leave?

There are many documented benefits of taking paternity leave. These include:

  • 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 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, dads who are closer to their children report having happier marriages and better health outcomes.
  • Boost for women’s careers: Improved paternity leave policies also 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

Legally, paternity leave discrimination is either of two claims:

  • Retaliation for taking CFRA/FMLA leave; or
  • Gender discrimination based on a father not conforming to outdated or patriarchal gender norms.

Plaintiffs alleging paternity leave discrimination must prove that:

  • They took paternity leave; and
  • Their paternity leave or involvement in childrearing was a motivating factor in an adverse employment action (e.g., a termination, demotion, pay cut, etc.).

Discrimination against dads who take leave is a growing problem as more fathers use leave. Paternity leave discrimination and retaliation is illegal. We have represented numerous new dads who were discriminated against for taking time off to bond with their new babies or support their partners in recovering from childbirth. Some were fired; others were demoted or lost other benefits of employment. This is discrimination and retaliation.

Talk to a Lawyer. Free Case Reviews.

Our mission is to fight for working families and protect their right to support their children. We are leading attorneys in the fields of pregnancy discrimination, family status discrimination, and paternity leave discrimination. We help victims of paternity leave discrimination stand up for new dads in the workforce.

If you have experienced paternity leave discrimination, contact us today through our website or give us a call at 213-465-4802 to schedule a free consultation.