[COLUMN] California law entitles new fathers to baby-bonding leave with guaranteed job protection

Q: MY wife and I are having a baby. My wife has scheduled to go on maternity leave. Somebody mentioned to her about bonding leave for new dads. However, I heard from a friend at work that our company doesn’t give paternity leave. He told me that a guy in another department went on leave after his baby was born, and they basically got rid of him. I think they said he was laid off because they didn’t need him anymore, but I heard they hired someone to replace him. Might that happen to me if I try to take baby bonding leave?

A: First of all, congratulations! The birth of a child is a wonderful blessing, and it’s commendable that you’re eager to form a positive bond with your baby and partner. In California, the importance of taking that time to bond as a family is recognized by the law, which protects new parents—including fathers—for taking leave to bond with a new child.

Under the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”), employers are required to allow new parents up to 12 weeks of leave to welcome a new child into the family, whether through birth or adoption. CFRA applies to all California employers with at least 5 employees. An employee is entitled to CFRA leave so long as he or she:

(i) worked for the employer for more than 12 months; and

(ii) worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months before the leave.

The 12 weeks of baby-bonding leave under CFRA may be taken in a continuous block of time, or in separate 2-week blocks. However, all bonding leave must be taken within 12 months of the child entering the family. CFRA provides job protection, so it is unlawful for an employer to fire you for taking the bonding leave. An employee who is terminated for exercising this right can hold the employer liable for damages, including reinstatement and back wages.

Note that the 12 weeks of job-protected leave guaranteed by CFRA is unpaid. However, fathers on bonding leave are entitled to partial wage replacement under a separate statute, California’s Paid Family Leave (“PFL”) law. The PFL is funded through the State Disability Insurance Program, and provides benefit payments for up to 8 weeks of bonding leave, at 60% to 70% of the employee’s past salary.

You may also use vacation pay, sick pay, PTO or other paid leave benefits available through your employer to supplement PFL benefits to receive 100% of pay. Again, my congratulations to you and your family!

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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The Law Offices of C. Joe Sayas, Jr. welcomes inquiries about this topic. All inquiries are confidential and at no cost. You can contact the office at (818) 291-0088 or visit www.joesayaslaw.com. [For more than 25 years, C. Joe Sayas, Jr., Esq. successfully recovered wages and other monetary damages for thousands of employees and consumers. He was named Top Labor & Employment Attorney in California by the Daily Journal, selected as Super Lawyer by the Los Angeles Magazine for 11 years, and is a past Presidential Awardee for Outstanding Filipino Overseas.]

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