Paternity Leave for New Dads in California
| Read Time: 7 minutes | Family Status Discrimination

Paternity leave in California helps dads take time off work when they have a new baby. More dads are choosing this leave because it’s good for families. In California, the law (called the California Family Rights Act or CFRA) lets dads take up to 12 weeks off. But to take leave under the California Family Rights Act, fathers need to have worked at their job or at least a year and 1,250 hours. CFRA leave is itself unpaid, but another program, called Paid Family Leave, allows new dads to make claims for paternity leave benefits for up to 8 weeks.

You should know that it is illegal in California for employers to discriminate or retaliate against new dads for taking paternity leave. California laws, including the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and California Family Rights Act (CFRA), prohibit retaliation based on gender stereotyping and retaliation for taking job-protected leaves of absence, respectively. In most cases, these laws prohibit California employers from discriminating against new dads.

Here are some common questions about paternity leave in California.

How Long Is Paternity Leave in California?

Under the CFRA, most new dads in California who have worked at employers 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 newborn. In addition, 8 of these weeks are partially paid through the in California State Paid Family Leave (PFL) program as a paternity leave benefit. 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 in California 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 employers cannot fire or retaliate against you for using your leave. CFRA leave for baby bonding must be taken within a year of the newborn’s birth. While CFRA leave does not need to be paid by employers, an employee can choose to use paid time off.

Generally, employees using CFRA leave in California 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 in California 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 or paid time off during this time), but you would become eligible to use your baby-bonding leave in March 2021, after one year of employment.

California Paid Family Leave Law

The California Paid Family Leave Law provides income replacement through the EDD–the same agency that administers unemployment and disability benefits in California–for eight weeks of leave. Typically, new fathers will receive approximately 60% of their income for a total of 8 weeks during paid family leave. But unless you are eligible for job protection under CFRA, employers are not required to keep your job open during your paternity 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 Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Like CFRA, family medical leave may be used to care for a spouse’s serious medical condition or FMLA bonding time for paternity leave.

For fathers in California, the FMLA generally is duplicative and less protective than the CFRA, so you should focus on your rights under the CFRA.

Disability Leave

Fathers in California generally are not eligible for state disability leave through the state disability insurance program. By contrast, birth parents are eligible for pregnancy disability leave due to pregnancy-related medical conditions, such as giving birth. Pregnancy disability leave provides up to four months of partially-paid leave from employers. Payments are made through the EDD, as with paid family leave.

However, some fathers may be eligible if they struggle with mental health issues as a result of the major life changes involved in caring for a child. Increasingly, studies show that new fathers can experience postpartum depression as well. For instance, they may feel sad, overwhelmed, anxious, and experience disruption in sleeping or eating patterns. Sometimes these challenges rise to the level of a disability. Fathers should speak to their own mental health or primary care providers to determine whether they are eligible for state disability insurance payments as a result of these challenges.

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 in California 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 employers 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 employers 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 employers, the human resources department, and the EDD, if applicable, throughout the application process. This will ensure that you, employers, 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 benefits 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 in California who want to apply for paternity leave for new dads 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. This is because when fathers take paternity leave, women do not bear as much of a penalty from employers for having children. In addition, having a supportive family relationship means women can focus more on their careers if they choose.
  • 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 isn’t just about taking time off; it is about fostering a nurturing environment that supports the emotional and psychological well-being of families. Employers need to create cultures that not only comply with legal obligations but also champion the importance of paternity leave for the holistic development of children and the well-being of both parents.

For fathers in California, the availability of paternity leave allows them to actively participate in their child’s upbringing from the outset. Employers must recognize and honor this right, ensuring that no discrimination or barriers hinder a father’s ability to take this leave and be present for their family during this crucial time.

Paternity Leave Discrimination is Illegal in California

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 by employers (e.g., a termination, demotion, pay cut, etc.).

Discrimination against dads who take leave is a growing problem as more fathers use leave in California due to the PFL program. Paternity leave discrimination and retaliation is illegal. We have represented numerous new dads whose employers discriminated against them 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. Under California law, this is discrimination and retaliation.

California Paternity Leave Discrimination Attorneys

Our mission is to fight for working families in California 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 in California stand up to their employers and create a more equitable workforce.

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

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Julian Burns King graduated with honors from Harvard Law School and founded King & Siegel in 2018. As head of the Firm’s discrimination and harassment practice areas, she champions the rights of working parents and victims of workplace discrimination and harassment. She has been recognized as a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers annually since 2018 and has recovered tens of millions of dollars on behalf of her clients.

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