Many people understand that the Family Medical Leave Act [FMLA] (and its equivalent California Family Rights Act [CFRA]) provide 12 weeks of leave because of a serious medical condition of an employee or family member. But not often discussed, and perhaps not as often used, is the “baby bonding” portion of the medical leave law. The CFRA and FMLA allow a father, for example, to take “medical leave” to bond with his newborn. This leave right would apply even if the mother giving birth fully recovers and is available to stay with a healthy infant. The “baby bonding” time may be taken intermittently, and may be taken anytime within one year of the baby’s birth.
Dads simply need to realize that “baby bonding” is both a great opportunity for them to experience those precious days that will never return. The law protects dads equally with moms when it comes to bonding. But if mom has a particularly tough recovery following delivery, she may obtain the additional protection of pregancy leave.
A woman’s “Baby bonding leave” may be taken immediately following a pregnancy disability leave or at any time within 12 months of the baby’s birth. Theoretically, if an employee has a difficult pregnancy, she may be entitled to up to four months of Pregnancy Disability Leave (“PDL”), then an additional 12 weeks of “baby bonding” leave once she recovers from her pregnancy-related disability. In other words, a women disabled by pregnancy who then gives birth may take up to seven consecutive months of job-protected leave.
Employers may ask for a medical certification from a healthcare provider to verify your need for CFRA/FMLA leave; however, under CFRA (unlike under federal law) employers may not ask for the diagnosis, treatment, or other “medical facts” supporting your need for leave. If a healthcare provider’s certification states that the employee has a “serious health condition” as defined by CFRA, and also states the date of onset and probable duration of the condition, the employer cannot ask for any additional information.
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