Are men entitled to take leave for their new baby?
Q: I have been working 5 years for a company (with over 200 employees) in Los Angeles. My wife just gave birth to our first child. Being a new father, I want to be there and bond with my new baby. When I asked my boss about parental leave, he laughed at me. But when I insisted and he saw I was serious, he became upset and called me a “sissy.” He said my wife (who works for a different company) is on leave anyway, so there was no need for me to be off work. He denied my leave. Is this legal?
A: No, it is not. Your rights are protected under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). CFRA ensures that California employees have the right to take a leave of absence for health or family-related reasons. One of the specific provisions of CFRA is to allow employees – both male and female – to take up to 12 weeks of leave to bond with a newborn child, a newly adopted child or a child newly placed in foster care. There is no requirement that either the employee or child have a serious health condition for CFRA leave to be granted.
The leave to bond with a new child must be completed within the first year of the birth or bonding leave. (Note: Child-bonding leave is different from pregnancy-related disability leave, which pregnant employees are additionally entitled to.)
According to researchers at The Center for WorkLife Law at the UC Hastings College of the Law, placement of the child. Under California law, parents (married or unmarried) and registered domestic partners who work for the same employer are limited to a combined total of 12 weeks of CFRA for child men also face barriers in the workplace as they try to balance work and family demands. For example, men requesting family leave are perceived as uncommitted to work and less masculine. They face harassment, lower performance evaluations, reduced pay, and increased risks of being demoted or downsized. Such a scenario unfolded at the Los Angeles Police Department.
The Daily Journal reports the following: William Cooper was a police officer who had been promoted several times. In July 2011, he requested a leave of absence for “baby bonding.” Cooper’s lieutenant was upset and told Cooper he was “doing a woman’s work” and “No man would stay out that long.” Cooper’s lieutenant called Cooper’s family leave a “pussy leave.” Cooper went on his leave for about 3 months. The lieutenant was angry and started an audit of Cooper’s work.
When Cooper returned to work after his leave, he was demoted and stripped of his supervisory duties. Cooper sued his employer (the City of Los Angeles), claiming that it violated CFRA by retaliating against him for taking a family leave, and failing to prevent harassment.
After initially denying Cooper’s allegations, and stating that it had a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for demoting Cooper, the City agreed to settle the case and pay Cooper $850,000 in damages.
To be eligible for CFRA leave, an employee must be a full-time or part-time employee working in California with more than 12 months (52 weeks) of service with the employer, and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12-month period before the date the leave begins. The employee must also work at a location in which the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles radius of the employee’s work site. After granting a CFRA leave, generally, the employer must reinstate the employee to the same or comparable position and provide such a guarantee if requested by the employee.
Finally, the employer must continue health care coverage for employees during their CFRA leave. This obligation begins on the first day of leave and continues for the duration of the leave(s), up to a maximum of 12 work weeks in a 12-month period.
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. [C. Joe Sayas, Jr., Esq. is an experienced trial attorney who has 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, consistently selected as Super Lawyer by the Los Angeles Magazine, and is the recipient of PABA’s Community Champion Award for 2016.]