Up until 1993, when FMLA and CFRA were signed into law, fathers were not believed to require time to bond with their newborn or adopted children. However, given the significance of fathers in a child’s life, California has put into place several laws over the past two decades to give new dads the time they need to be with their newborns or newly adopted children.
Understanding paternity leave
Paternity leave is the time a father takes off from work to be with his newborn or newly adopted child. This leave is typically between two weeks and a few months long, depending on the employer’s policy.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) allow eligible fathers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave per year for certain family and medical reasons. Paternity leave falls under the “family” category of reasons for taking FMLA/CFRA leave.
How to qualify for paternity leave
Under employment law, a father qualifies for FMLA/CFRA-protected paternity leave if they:
• Work for a covered employer
• Have worked for the employer for at least 12 months (the 12 months do not need to be consecutive)
• Have worked at least 1250 hours in the 12 months prior to taking leave (Leave taken before accumulating 1250 hours does not count towards the the1250 hour requirement)
• Work at a site with at least 50 employees within 75 miles
• Give proper notice to the employer of the need for leave
While CFRA and FMLA both entitle eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave per year for certain family and medical reasons, there are some key differences between the two laws. One is that your workplace must have 20 or more employees to qualify for CFRA; for FMLA, that number must be 50 or more. Further, to be eligible for FMLA leave, you must have worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months, whereas you only need to have worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months out of the last five years to qualify for CFRA leave.