Paternity Leave and the Options for Dads - Barrett & Farahany

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Paternity Leave and the Options for Dads

Paternity Leave and the Options for Dads

paternity leave

The birth of a child is a major event in a couple’s life. It’s only natural that the arrival of a child often leads parents to reevaluate their priorities – there is now a new life in their home that they are responsible for and must care for. Understandably, many parents prefer to spend some quality time with their child during the first few months, which tends to mean taking some time off work, or at least rearranging their employment schedules. This can cause issues in the workplace, especially if there’s an urgent need for the skills and expertise of the new parent.

This kind of conflict is hardly new – it has long been customary for women to take time off work for their children, and federal laws, particularly the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), allow for this. But what about the father? How long do dads get for paternity leave? Traditionally, men continued on at the workplace as usual when the stork delivered a new child. But in recent years, we’ve seen an increasing societal emphasis on the importance of family leave rights for dads. What follows is the state of the law as it relates to paternity leave for dads. This is where FMLA for dads comes in.

FMLA for Dads

As you may already know, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 allows employees to take unpaid leave for a wide range of health-related issues, including child-rearing. FMLA permits workers to take up to 12 weeks of leave to manage their serious health issues, or those of a spouse or a close relative, or – more relevant to the present discussion – the birth of their child and the weeks following. FMLA can include simple bonding time with a newborn child.

But the question that remains is – how long do dads get for paternity leave? It is important to understand that this law applies equally to mothers and fathers. Men and women are entitled to unpaid family leave under the provisions of FMLA. It also covers adoptive parents.

Protections Under the FMLA in Georgia

Employees who qualify for FMLA protection can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period. The 12 weeks do not have to be taken all at once; some employees arrange to have their leave time broken up into non-consecutive periods.

The reasons for your medical leave may include the birth and care of a newborn child, adoption or foster care placement, caring for an immediate family member with a serious health condition, or addressing your own serious health condition that renders you unable to perform essential job functions.

The FMLA also ensures that eligible employees can take medical leave without the fear of losing their jobs or health insurance coverage. Upon return from FMLA leave, employees are generally entitled to be restored to their original position or an equivalent one with the same pay, benefits, and terms of employment.

Additionally, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the FMLA. These protections help foster a supportive work environment conducive to the well-being of employees and their families in Georgia.

Limitations of FMLA

Not all employees qualify for unpaid leave under the FMLA. Restrictions do apply. Persons employed by state or federal governments are always covered by the FMLA. But matters aren’t so clear for those who work for private employers.

  • Private employers with less than fifty employees are not entitled to FMLA leave.
  • The employee must have (1) been employed at the company for at least 12 months (which doesn’t have to be a consecutive period of employment) and (2) accumulated at least 1250 hours of work time during the previous 12-month period.
  • The employee’s request for leave may be denied if he or she is in the top 10% of wage earners at the company. (The reasoning here is that the employee’s extended absence is more likely to harm the operations of the company.)

In cases where FMLA leave for new dads does not apply, some employees attempt to negotiate alterations to their work schedule to accommodate their new duties as fathers.

The Question of Paid Parental Leave

Since the question of the moment is how long dads get for paternity leave, let’s find out what Georgia law says.

In 2021, Georgia’s House Bill 146 mandated three weeks of paid parental leave for government employees only, covering state and local education board workers, and providing inclusive support. This may include paternity leave for dads.

A serious drawback to unpaid paternity leave for new dads in private firms is the harm it can do to one’s finances, simply because there’s no money coming in. Until 2017, only three states offered paid family leave, including paternity leave for dads: California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. A fourth state, New York, officially launched its paid family leave program on January 1, 2018.

What to Do If Your FMLA Rights Have Been Violated

Ultimately, many factors come into play when determining how long dads get for paternity leave. Have your FMLA rights been violated? You can take these steps:

  1. Review Your Rights: Familiarize yourself with FMLA provisions and your eligibility status.
  2. Document the Violation: Keep records of incidents, including dates, communications, and any relevant documentation.
  3. Inform Your Employer: Discuss the issue with your employer or HR department, citing specific violations and seeking resolution.
  4. File a Complaint: If the issue persists, consider filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.
  5. Seek Legal Advice: Consult with an employment law attorney to understand your options and potential legal recourse.
  6. Protect Your Rights: Remain vigilant and assertive in protecting your FMLA rights to ensure fair treatment in the workplace.

FMLA issues can be puzzling and unclear, as several exceptions and special circumstances may apply. If you believe your employer may have violated your FMLA rights, please get in touch with Barrett & Farahany today.

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