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Are fathers eligible for FMLA leave?

If you are preparing to welcome a new baby into your home, you are probably planning to take some time off to care for your family and bond with your new child. While you may know that the federal and District of Columbia Family Medical Leave Acts allow mothers to take time away from work in this circumstance, you may not be sure of your rights as a father. If you work for an FMLA-covered employer in Washington, D.C., you may take FMLA leave for the birth of a child regardless of whether you are the child's mother or father. In general, to qualify for FMLA leave, you must have worked for your current employer for at least one year, and for at least 1,000 hours over the past year. Employees who work for employers with fewer than 20 employees are not covered by the DC laws, and the federal law requires at least 50 employees.

The United States Department of Labor provides employees with extensive information on the federal FMLA program. According to the DOL, both men and women may take FMLA leave for the birth of a child. You may also take leave if you are adopting a child or welcoming a foster child into your family, or to provide health care for a family member. In most cases, you must take FMLA leave within a year of your new child's placement or birth. Unless you make other arrangements with your employer, you must take all of your FMLA leave as a continuous block. However, you may be able to work out a different arrangement with your employer, such as working a part-time schedule for several months.

The federal FMLA program allows you to take up to 12 weeks of time off from work without risking your job, and the DC FMLA law allows you to take up to 16 weeks of time off from work over a two-year period (federal government employees are only covered by the federal FMLA). In general, FMLA leave is unpaid. However, you may be able to use any paid sick leave or vacation time you have built up along with FMLA leave. The law states that your employer must continue your health coverage during your leave. Additionally, your employer may not consider your use of FMLA leave when making decisions about promotions or disciplinary actions.

Starting in July 2020, the DC government will administer the Universal Paid Leave Act, which applies to all non-federal employees in DC and will provide for up to 8 weeks' paid leave for a new child, 6 weeks' paid leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition, and 2 weeks' paid leave to care for your own health condition, for a total of 8 weeks in a single 52-week period. The payments are calculated as a percentage of an employee's salary, capped at $1,000 per week.

This information about FMLA leave is intended for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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Bernabei & Kabat, PLLC
1400 16th Street, NW
Suite 500
Washington, DC 20036

Phone: 202-745-1942
Fax: 202-745-2627
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