While many Americans may be familiar with the concept of maternity leave, few may understand that parental leave for employees can also extend to fathers. Paternity leave refers to the period of time when a father stops working because he is about to have or has just had or adopted a baby. Regardless of gender, new parents are federally entitled to parental leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Under the FMLA, new fathers have the right to return to their employment positions after up to twelve weeks without suffering any penalty in pay or title. Paternity leave may be taken at any point during pregnancy or up to a year after the child is born. New fathers may, for example, elect to take their leave after the child’s mother has exhausted hers. Furthermore, a new father does not have to be biologically related to the child for the FMLA’s protections to apply. In 2010, the Department of Labor extended coverage under the FMLA to nonbiological parents. Likewise, on June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court found in United States v. Windsor that the FMLA was applicable to same-sex couples who were legally married.
Nonetheless, there are a few exceptions to the FMLA and its Californian counterpart, the California Family Rights Act. For one, employees who are among the 10% highest percentage earners at their workplace and whose absence would cause financial harm to the company may be denied the opportunity to return to their employment position after taking leave. Moreover, employees are eligible for parental leave only if they work at a company with more than fifty employees within a seventy-five mile radius of their workplace and who have additionally worked at their company for a minimum of 1,250 hours in the year prior to taking leave.
For California employees working for smaller companies, the New Parents Leave Act (“NPLA”) extends the same amount of leave as the FMLA for new parents who work for employers with twenty to forty-nine employees. The eligibility requirements are similar to FMLA under the NPLA. Under the NPLA, new fathers may receive partial wages from the state while on leave. The state is authorized to pay 60% of employees’ wages for up to six weeks. Consequently, low-income employees who make one-third of the state average wage may receive 70% of their wages. When the leave expires, the parent’s employer must reinstate them to the same job or a position similar in terms of pay, duties, and location.
While the NPLA may offer partial wage payments, the FMLA does not guarantee any pay during parental leave. As of last year, the only states that require paid paternity leave are California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York. In California, the Employment Development Department requires fathers meet a number of requirements to be considered for Paid Family Leave. For one, fathers must have welcomed a new child into their family in the past twelve months either through a partner’s pregnancy, foster care, or adoption. Second, fathers must have paid into California’s State Disability Insurance during the past five to eighteen months. Third, fathers must not have taken up to six weeks of Paid Family Leave in the past twelve months. For information on how Paid Family Leave is calculated, visit the Employment Development Department’s Leave Calculator.
While Paid Family Leave may only cover a portion of your typical earned wages, some cities have implemented policies to ensure new parents receive all of their wages. The City of San Francisco has a policy called the Paid Parental Leave Ordinance that requires employers to offer additional compensation to employees who have used paid family leave to bond with their new child(ren). This supplemental compensation ensures that new parents who work for covered employers receive 100% of their wages while on leave. As of January 2018, covered employers are those with twenty or more employees.
It is important for fathers to know about their rights to parental leave. Parental leave no longer applies solely to mothers. New fathers should look into what leave is available to them and if they are entitled to paid leave.