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Are maternity and paternity leave laws better in California?

Earlier this year, the National Partnership for Women & Families published its analysis of parental leave laws in the U.S. The group compared state family leave laws in order to determine which states do a better job of protecting workers who are new parents.

The good news is that workers in California are able to benefit from more protections compared to other workers in the U.S. when they need to take time off of work after giving birth to a child or after adopting a child. These laws include the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).

The bad news is that California -- and the entire U.S. -- could do a better job of making sure that workers who are new mothers or fathers have enough time to adjust to life with a new baby and to bond with their new sons or daughters. Nearly 70 other countries offer paid paternal leave for dads. The U.S. does not offer paid paternal leave, unless new dads use vacation or sick leave to stay home with a new child.

Depending on what types of benefits an employer offers, U.S. women may be eligible for short-term disability benefits after giving birth to a child. These benefits may include paid time off for several weeks after childbirth.

But when a woman wants to take more time off of work to care for her new baby, she may be eligible to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the federal FMLA. New fathers are also protected under the FMLA. During this time off of work, an employee cannot be discriminated against or fired because he or she has chosen to take an extended family medical leave to care for a new child.

Although many mothers and fathers in California and throughout the entire U.S. are able to benefit from this federal law, not all workers are protected under the law due to some restrictions. Employees who work at companies that employ fewer than 50 workers are not protected under the federal law. Typically, workers have to be employed by a company for 12 months as well before they are eligible to take a medical leave under the federal law. The CFRA coincides with the FMLA.

Family medical leave laws can be confusing, especially when workers need to care for a family member who is not their own child. Fortunately, workers in Califronia can seek assistance from an attorney in order to determine whether or not they have been denied important medical leave rights by an employer.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Paternity Leave: Best States For New Dads," Jessica Samakow, June 18, 2012

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