Do dads have any rights in the workplace? You bet!
Happy Father's Day weekend to all of you dads, and to all of you who have dads, which I believe covers us all. In honor of the occasion, here are five fun facts about fathers and their rights in the workplace.
FATHER'S DAY FACT NO. 1: Dads have a right to take paternity leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. I think most employers know this already, but leave for the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child is available to fathers as well as mothers. This is true even if the father is not married to the mother, or if the father and mother are divorced. (If both mother and father are employed by the same employer, they are entitled to a total of 12 weeks' leave in a 12-month period rather than 12 weeks apiece.)
FATHER'S DAY FACT NO. 2: Dads have a right to take FMLA leave for their children's serious health conditions. If a child has a serious health condition within the meaning of the FMLA (which, as we all know, means "not that serious"), then the dad has the right to take a full 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period. This is true even if he and the mother are employed by the same employer. (In that event, each parent would be entitled to a full 12 weeks of leave.)
FATHER'S DAY FACT NO. 3: Dads should have the same right to "bonding" leave that moms get. Of course, mothers have actual medical disabilities during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period, and they also have unique needs while they are nursing. Therefore, an employer can provide disability leave and other benefits to mothers, but not fathers, during these periods. BUT -- once the mother no longer has a medical disability, and the time off is just for bonding or "fun with the baby," she and the father are similarly situated again, and the father should be offered the same parental benefits that the mother gets. Otherwise, the employer could be liable for sex discrimination against men.
FATHER'S DAY FACT NO. 4: If the father is "needed to care for" the mother when she receives prenatal care, he can take FMLA leave, but only if he's married to the mother. Prenatal care is a "serious health condition" under the FMLA, but it's the mother's serious health condition, not the child's. Because the father's FMLA entitlement in this instance is in relation to the mother rather than the child, the father has to be a "spouse" to be able to take FMLA leave to go with the mother to her prenatal visits. (FMLA leave is not available to "significant others." At least, not at this time.)
FATHER'S DAY FACT NO. 5: "Flexible workplace" benefits should be available to fathers on the same basis that they are available to mothers. If an employer allows mothers to telecommute, or to work flexible schedules, then those same benefits should be available to fathers. The only exception would be if the arrangements were accommodations for the mother's actual period of physical disability relating to pregnancy, childbirth, or the postpartum period.
BONUS Father's Day Fact: If a father takes advantage of his rights to parental leave, the employer should not hold that against him. In other words, he should not be considered "unpromotable," or otherwise discriminated or retaliated against, for using the parental leave benefits that his employer offers.