The Federal Medical Leave Act purposely does not make a distinction about which parent should be the one that stays at home with a newborn. The wisdom that prevails under the law is that both parents are equally important and that the best interests of the child are served if both have parents can take the time they feel they need to bond with the baby.
That does not mean that equality reigns supreme when it comes time to exercise employee rights to leave under the FMLA. California’s employment environment may be more conducive than some states to a mother or father seeking to obtain what the law allows, but those with experience in employment law know that there can still be a workplace bias that says if one parent is going to stay home, it should be mom.
It shouldn’t happen, of course. The FMLA prohibits such discrimination. And last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reinforced that position by declaring that men are as entitled as women are to choose to take bonding time with a newborn if they wish.
The catch with the EEOC announcement is that it is merely guidance. Companies are not required to follow it. Still, the commission’s opinion counts for something when it comes to interpretations by the court and so many legal observers say the decision on parental leave is important.
To be clear, the FMLA has its limits. Only companies with 50 or more workers are covered. It does require them to grant up to 12 weeks of leave to a parent, but it doesn’t have to be paid leave.
If you’ve been the target of retribution by an employer because you are a father who took leave you are entitled to under the law, consult an attorney to see what options you have to protect yourself and, by extension, your loved ones.