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Say that you are about to become a dad, and you want nothing more than to be present for every moment of your child’s birth. And you especially want to be at home during those first few days, or weeks, after your partner has given birth. Naturally, it’s very important for you to help care for your child and your home during this challenging time.

Asking for paternity leave can be uncomfortable for some men. Your employer may provide opportunities for paternity leave, yet you may still feel uneasy asking for it. 

Most of us are familiar with maternity leave requests, but what if a dad wants to take time off to help take care of his newborn child, too? More often than not, requests for paternity leave — and especially those made for maternity leave — are met with resistance. In the worst cases, they can outright be denied. 

Paternity Leave In The United States

What About Requesting Maternity Leave?

Paternity Leave In The United States

There is currently no federal law requiring paid paternity leave. Under certain qualifications, a father may be entitled to a fixed amount of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a father is eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave throughout the course of a twelve month period for the purposes of caring for a newborn child.

Most states do not offer paid paternity leave, but California does offer offer six weeks of paid leave to new parents. This paid leave, however, only provides for a portion of the father’s income when the leave is taken, and will not cover the entire amount. Further, California doesn’t offer the same protections that the FMLA does.

Below are a few suggestions when requesting paternity leave:

  • Familiarize yourself with your employer’s paternity leave policy. Make sure to consult with your company’s HR department so you know exactly what your employer does and does not provide before requesting a leave.
  • Be mindful and don’t ask for too much. Be mindful of your employer and your co-workers. If your company offers up to four weeks of paid leave and you only need two, try to limit your leave to two weeks. Help make things easier on your employer. Demonstrate that you have worked ahead, if necessary, and make arrangements with your co-workers to cover any crucial assignments.
  • Know exactly how much you need. Certain circumstances will require a longer leave. For example, if there are complications during childbirth your partner may need more help to assist with her recovery. You will therefore need more time to help with her recovery, on top of the time you already need to bond with your child.
  • Don’t wait too long to ask. The FMLA requires a 30 days advance notice that you will request a leave. The 30 day rule applies, unless an event — like the birth of a child — forces your leave to begin in under 30 days. When it comes to exceptions to the 30 day rule, an advance notice must be provided as soon as it is practicable.
  • Suggest alternatives. Be prepared to offer alternatives such as using vacation/sick days or working from home if your request is denied.
  • Be prepared if your request is refused. In the worst cases, your boss may respond to your request with anger or annoyance. There are options when this happens. 

What About Requesting Maternity Leave?

For obvious reasons, requests for maternity leave are more common than for paternity leave, but the procedure for requesting maternity leave is more or less the same. However, maternity requests are often denied or met with retaliatory action, which is illegal. 

Federal and state laws exist to protect pregnant women from discrimination in the workplace. If you are pregnant and need to request maternity leave under the FMLA, you must follow the proper procedure to fully protect your rights. As with paternity leave, you must give your employer a 30 days advance notice before taking your leave.

What if you followed the FMLA guidelines and your employer still denies you a leave? 

Below is a list of three things you can do:

  1. Stay Calm. If you are absolutely sure that you are following all necessary FMLA guidelines, make one last attempt to talk with your employer about your maternity leave. Calmly and gently let your employer know that your maternity leave is covered by the FMLA. If necessary, show your employer the FMLA website to reinforce your position.
  2. Contact the Labor Department. Contact California’s Labor Department and explain the situation. Mention that you followed all FMLA guidelines before requesting your maternity leave. Someone from the Labor Department will contact your employer and attempt to resolve the situation. It is unlikely that an employer will deny your maternity leave once they are contacted by the Labor Department. However, there are instances of employers denying maternity leave even after being contacted by the Labor Department.
  3. Legal Counsel. If your employer still denies your maternity leave after being contacted by the Labor Department, contact the Labor Department again. Your case will now become an investigation, and if an investigation determines that your employer has illegally denied your maternity leave, the Labor Department may take your employer to court. 

What Can West Coast Employment Lawyers Do For You?

If you have made up your mind to take action, it is important to work with an attorney that specializes in cases like yours. The pregnancy discrimination lawyers at West Coast Employment Lawyers have extensive experience handling pregnancy discrimination cases. We will work tirelessly to gather the facts, find and interview eyewitnesses, hire experts, and fight for your rights.

We work on a contingency basis, which means we only get attorney’s fees if we are able to recover for you. Our legal team is available 24/7 and will take care of your case from start to finish. For a free no-obligation consultation with a pregnancy discrimination attorney in California, contact our office at 213-927-3700.

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