Does California Guarantee “Paternity Leave” to Men? [Updated 2020]

Men often get the short end of the stick when it comes to taking leave for the birth of a child or the adoption of a child into the family. While mothers often receive paid maternity leave to care for themselves and their children, in the U.S. the expectation is that fathers should return to work almost immediately, use personal or vacation days for time off, or take an unpaid paternity leave. Understanding your rights to paternity leave – if you have them – in California can help you as a new dad. Speak to an Los Angles family medical leave attorney if you need advice on California employment law.

What is Paid Family Leave in California?

California is the first state to offer paid “family leave” to both new moms and new dads. The California Employment Development Department states that people eligible for paid family leave are those who have welcomed a new child into the family through pregnancy, adoption, or foster care in the past 12 months. If the employee has paid into the state Disability Insurance fund in the five to 18 months prior to taking the leave, he or she is eligible.

Paid family leave benefits give a maximum of six weeks of leave per 12 months. Parents have the option to take all six weeks consecutively or to break them up throughout the year. To be eligible for paternity leave benefits, parents must not have already taken the six weeks of paid family leave in the past year. Additional eligibility requirements are that the parent be employed or actively looking for work at the time of the paid leave, that the parent has lost wages because of the new child, that the parent earned at least $300 from which the state deducted money for insurance, and that the parent completes and submits the paid leave claim form no earlier than the first day of leave but no later than 41 days after.

Citizenship and immigration statuses do not affect a parent’s eligibility for paid family leave. Paid family leave will reimburse the worker’s wages by approximately 60% to 70% depending on income, as of January 1, 2019. Benefit amounts range from $50 to $1,252 per week for paid family leave. To qualify for maximum benefits, the worker must earn at least $27,126.67 per quarter. Benefits will last up to six weeks for care and bonding with a child. Note that paid family leave does not protect parents from job termination. However, other laws, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), may offer such protection to new parents.

If you fulfill all the eligibility requirements, your employer legally must provide paid family leave for the birth of your child. You can also receive paid family leave if you’re self-employed and have contributed to the Disability Insurance Elective Coverage Program in the previous 18 months. You can receive paid benefits as a part-time worker.

Calculating Your Benefit Amount

If you qualify for paid paternity leave, you can calculate your estimated benefit amount using your start date, base period and weekly wages. First, confirm the date on which you will begin your paid family leave. You cannot change this date once you bring your claim. Then, find your base period. A base period is 12 months, divided into 4 quarters. The base period will include wages paid 5 to 18 months before your claim began but not wages paid during the claim. If your claim begins on or after January 1st, 2019, use these guidelines to establish your base.

  • January, February or March claims: base period is the 12 months ending on the prior September 30th.
  • April, May or June claims: base period is the 12 months ending on last December 31st.
  • July, August or September claims: base period is the 12 months ending on last March 31st.
  • October, November or December claims: base period is the 12 months ending on last June 30th.

You must have earned at least $300 in wages from your job within the base period. Next, estimate your weekly benefits amounts (WBA). Base your WBA on the quarter where your earnings were the highest. Your WBA will be $50 if you earned less than $928.99. It will be approximately 70% of your earnings if you received between $929 and $5,385.37. The WBA will be approximately 60% of your earnings if you received more than $5,385.37 in wages. With these three values, you will be able to calculate your estimated benefits while on paternity leave.

Are There Paternity Leave Options?

Three laws in California protect a father’s right to paternity leave: the Family and Medical Leave Act, California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and New Parent Leave Act. The FMLA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave, including leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted child. The CFRA is similar to the FMLA and also provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid paternity leave. It is California’s statewide version of the federal family leave law. The New Parent Leave Act also provides 12 weeks of unpaid paternity leave, but it applies to smaller employers with 20 to 49 employees.

If a worker is eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid paternity leave through two of these laws, the worker must take them concurrently (at the same time). The aggregate amount of unpaid paternity leave, therefore, will be 12 workweeks. In some workplaces, the worker will continue receiving pay or benefits during the 12-week leave. The right to this pay, however, will come from an employment contract, not a federal or state law. If you are unsure whether you have paid paternity leave under the law, speak to an attorney.

San Francisco has a special citywide Paid Parental Leave Ordinance in effect that requires employers to offer additional compensation to employees who use paid family leave to bond with new children. If you live in San Francisco and work for a covered employer, you are eligible for supplemental compensation so that you receive 100% of your gross weekly wage while on leave. Covered employers are those with 50 or more employees by January 2017, 35 or more by July 2017, and 20 or more by January 2018.

Can an Employer Deny Paternity Leave in CA?

According to the FMLA, federal law requires most employers to offer fathers at least 12 weeks of unpaid family leave after a new child enters the family, without fear of job termination, demotion, or loss of benefits. Employers do not have to offer paid paternity leave under federal law. Talk to your human resources department to see if you’re eligible for paid or unpaid paternity leave. If you suspect your employer isn’t treating you fairly as a new parent, contact us today.

An employment attorney may be able to help you bring a wage claim against your employer for unfairly denying your request for paternity leave. A successful claim could result in your employer granting the leave to which the law entitles you, paying wages (if applicable) and reinstating your job at the end of paternity leave. If your employer retaliated against you for taking your lawful period of paternity leave, a lawyer could help you file a case against the employer for wrongful termination. Even if you simply have questions about whether you are eligible for paternity leave in California, an LA employment lawyer can help.