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California law allows both mothers and fathers to take paid family leave (PFL) to bond with a newborn baby, or a newly placed foster or adoptive child. A parent is entitled to up to six weeks of paid leave under state law.
All employees paying into state disability insurance qualify for PFL. A new father can use PFL at any time during the baby's first year of life -- or the first year after an adoptive or foster child joins the family. The father can take the six weeks in a single block or in separate stretches throughout the year. To apply, he can submit a claims form at the disability insurance website, or in hard copy. The father has to submit documentation of his kinship with the child along with the form.
Weekly benefits range from $50 to $1,104 at the time of writing. Like regular state disability payments, the amounts depend on the father's earnings during a base period. If you file in the first quarter of this year, for example, the base period would be for 12 months ending September 30 of last year. During that period, your highest-earning quarter determines your benefit.
Disability coverage, which includes PFL, is a state benefit. Your employer doesn't get to approve or disapprove your application. He can, however, require you take up to two weeks of vacation or paid time off before tapping your PFL. Taking PFL doesn't mandate your employer reserve a job for you to come back to. The state recommends you take unpaid leave under the California Family Rights Act at the same time you get PFL benefits. This usually requires your employer to reserve your job for your return.
Family Rights Act
The CFRA covers employers in California with 50 or more full or part-time employees. A father can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for child-bonding without losing his job, provided he gives at least 30 days advance notice. If the employer can't keep the same job open, he has to provide a comparable job with comparable pay and benefits and the same duties. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act provides similar rights, but California's law extends paternity leave to domestic partners, not just spouses. If your employer refuses to authorize leave or reinstate you, you can report him to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. There are exceptions, such as if your job is eliminated in a layoff.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.