New dads in California are typically eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected paternity leave. This leave is available to new biological fathers, male partners of a pregnant woman, surrogate fathers, adoptive fathers, or foster fathers.
Here are four key things to know about California paternity leave laws:
- To qualify for paternity leave, you must have worked for your employer at least 1,250 hours in the one year just prior to taking leave.
- You may be entitled to “paid family leave” via California’s Paid Family Leave Program.
- You can also use your vacation pay and/or sick pay to receive payment while out on paternity leave.
- You have the right to return to the same or similar job when you come back from leave.
At Shouse Law Group, our legal team has decades of combined experience fighting for new fathers whose rights to paternity leave have been violated. When employers try to cheat our clients out of the time off they are entitled to, we can usually remedy the situation so our clients get all the leave they are owed and often a financial reward as well.
Our California labor and employment law attorneys will answer seven key questions in this article:
- 1. Length of paternity leave
- 2. Eligibility requirements
- 3. When leave can be taken
- 4. Paid leave
- 5. Job protection
- 6. Giving notice of paternity leave
- 7. Employer violations
- Additional resources
1. Length of paternity leave
The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) grants many new fathers the right to take up to 12 weeks of family leave per year to bond or connect with a new child, a child you adopted, or a child placed for foster care with you.1 This is not paid parental leave.2
If you are entitled to take leave under both FMLA and CFRA, your total leave time is capped at 12 workweeks.5
2. Eligibility requirements
In California, CFRA grants you up to 12 weeks of paternity leave if:
- your employer is “covered,” which means it has at least five employees;6 and
- you have been employed with the company for more than one year prior to your leave date; and
- you worked at least 1,250 hours for the company within the 12 months prior to taking leave (which usually means you are not a part-time employee).7
3. When leave can be taken
If you are eligible to take family leave, you are not obligated to take all 12 weeks off of work at once. However, you do have to take all of the time off within one year of the date of a new child.8
This means you have some flexibility when deciding the specific dates to take off of work.
Note that an employer can require you to take your time off from the worksite in blocks of two weeks at a time.9
4. Paid leave
Paternity leave under CFRA is not paid. However, you may be eligible for up to eight weeks of paid paternity leave under California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) Program.10
In 2023, the average PFL benefit was $878 a week.11
You can check with California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) to learn more about PFL eligibility. Note that the EDD uses SDI Online so that you can submit PFL claims and state disability insurance forms.
Other forms of paid leave
When you take paternity leave, you can use any of the following to receive payment from your employer:
Note that if you are a federal employee, you get 12 weeks of paid leave after the birth or placement of a child.
5. Job protection
You usually have the right to get your job back when you return from paternity leave.12 This includes the right to get:
- the same job as you worked prior to your leave, or
- a similar job to your old one.13
If a similar job, then this position must be similar in terms of:
- job duties and responsibilities, and
- working conditions.14
6. Giving notice of paternity leave
Before you plan to take off work for paternity leave, you should give your employer “reasonable notice.” Thirty days is usually considered sufficient, though employers appreciate as much notice as possible.
Your company’s employee handbook may give instructions on whether you should give notice verbally or in writing. If you give written notice, be sure to include your anticipated start and end dates of paternity leave.
There are emergencies when you may have to take paternity leave without notice, such as if your child is born prematurely. Your employer should try to reasonably accommodate you in these situations.
7. Employer violations
If your employer violates your family leave rights, you must first file a complaint with California’s Civil Rights Department (CRD). Upon filing this grievance, the CRD may decide to pursue an action against the employer.
If the CRD does not pursue your case, it will issue you a “right-to-sue letter.” The letter means we can then sue your employer in civil court.
Here at Shouse Law Group, we have represented countless new fathers who were denied their paternity leave rights. In most cases, we can persuade employers not only to grant you the time off you are entitled to but also to pay you a large financial reward for your trouble.
Note that sometimes an employer (or co-workers) may unlawfully retaliate against you when you try to exercise your right to take paternity leave. Retaliation can take the form of:
In our experience, employers are usually willing to settle rather than risk bad publicity from a court case. At Shouse Law Group, we have a long track record of negotiating favorable resolutions that end the retaliation and provide our clients with a large financial reward.
- Men Should Take Paternity Leave – Here’s Why – Article by Forbes.
- How Paternity Leave Helps Dads’ Brains Adapt to Parenting – Article by Harvard Business Review.
- Paternity leave: A guide for fathers and partners – Overview by BabyCenter.com.
- Expecting Better: A State-by-State Analysis of Parental Leave Programs – Booklet by National Partnership for Women and Families.
- What is Paternity Leave? – Article by WebMD.
- California Government Code 12926d. See also 29 U.S.C. 2601. See also California Employment Development Department at edd.ca.gov. See Nevada Dept. of Human Resources v. Hibbs, 538 U.S. 721 (2003). See also Scalia v. Alaska (9th Cir., 2021) 985 F.3d 742.
- California Government Code 12945.2 and 12945.6. See also 29 U.S.C. 2612(a).
- 29 U.S.C. 2601–2654 (Federal Family and Medical Leave Act).
- California Government Code 12945.2a.
- California Government Code 12945.6, the New Parent Leave Act, now repealed as per California Senate Bill 1383 (2020).
- California Government Code 12945.2 and 12945.6.
- California Government Code 12945.2.
- 2 CCR 11090.
- See same.
- California Unemployment Insurance Code 2655.
- See same. Paid Family Leave Average Weekly Benefit Amount, EDD.
- See, for example, 2 CCR 11089.
- See same.
- See same.