Understanding Paternity Leave in Florida

Father on paternity leave in Florida holding a baby
Whether the new addition to your family is your biological child, an adopted child, or a foster child, welcoming a new child into your life is exciting and stressful for both mothers and fathers. Trying to fulfill your work duties while being present and supportive as a father is difficult, but paternity leave can help make this period easier.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires certain employers to offer qualified workers paternity leave. Florida employers are no exception and must comply with FMLA when it applies to them. While FMLA for paternity leave in Florida does not have to be compensated, it can free you from any concern about being absent from your job for a prolonged period.

What Is Paternity Leave: Definitions and Duration

If you are wondering, “What is paternity leave?” you are not alone. Paternity leave is a leave of absence from your employment that is granted so that you can be present for and support a new child and your partner, if applicable. The leave does not depend on you being married or having any significant other. If you are welcoming a new child into your home by birth, adoption, or placement, you are potentially eligible for paternity leave in Florida.

You might ask next, “How long is paternity leave in Florida?” The FMLA requires covered employers to allow up to 12 weeks of unpaid paternity leave every 12 months. Employers can calculate the reset date of these 12 months in several different ways. Some employers use January 1 or another fixed date as a “reset date” for FMLA eligibility. Others use a rolling 12-month period to determine FMLA eligibility.

You can take paternity leave before or after your child’s birth. Thus, if you wanted to be present with your partner for a few weeks before you finalized the adoption of your new child, you could do so. You could then use the remainder of your FMLA paternity leave after the adoption is complete to support your child and partner.

Who Is Eligible for Paternity Leave in Florida?

Paternity leave in Florida is available under state and federal law for expectant and new fathers whose partners have given birth or will soon. You are also able to use paternity leave if you are adopting a child or will be providing foster care for a new child. Such leave is protected by the FMLA as long as this law covers both you and your employer.

If you and your employer are subject to the FMLA, you do not need any other form of leave to be eligible for paternity leave in Florida. For example, paternity leave under the FMLA is available even if you have used all your employer-granted sick days and vacation days. You should be aware that if you have paid leave available, your employer may require you to use it before using FMLA paternity leave.

You must have worked at least 1,250 hours within the previous 12 months to be able to request FMLA paternity leave. The law looks to the 12 months before your FMLA leave request to determine whether you have met this requirement.

Last, paternity leave is only available within one year of your child’s birth or arrival. For example, you cannot take paternity leave to give your partner a break from child-rearing duties related to your toddler.

FMLA and Paternity Leave: What You Need to Know

Father applying for FMLA to get paternity leave in Florida

The FMLA gives expectant fathers important legal protections to be present for the birth of their children and to support their partners before and after birth. The maximum amount of protected leave you can take away from work is 12 weeks every year during the child’s first year of life.

Not all employers or employees are subject to FMLA. You must work for an employer with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of your primary job site to take protected paternity leave in Florida. Certain employers, such as public institutions and schools, must comply with the FMLA regardless of how many employees they have.

When you use FMLA paternity leave, your employer cannot terminate your employment or healthcare coverage while you are away except in a few specific situations. When your leave is over, and you are ready to return to work, you must be restored to your previous job or a comparable job and rate of pay.

Note that the FMLA covers other types of leave, and taking other leaves of absence under FMLA can reduce your paternity leave in Florida. For instance, if you took four weeks off earlier in the year because of surgery, you only have eight weeks of paternity leave remaining.

Is Denying Paternity Leave Illegal?

If your employer is subject to FMLA and you have requested leave in accordance with your company’s policies, then your employer should allow you to take paternity leave in Florida. To make the process seamless, you should communicate with your employer as soon as you know you will need to use paternity leave. Document your request and your employer’s response in writing.

Despite FMLA, your employer may legally deny a request for paternity leave under certain circumstances. First, if your employer is not subject to FMLA because it is too small, then your employer does not need to honor a request for paternity leave. For example, if you work for a small business with only ten employees, your employer can deny your request for paternity leave.

Similarly, your request can legally be denied if you do not meet the requirements for paternity leave. If you have not worked for your employer for the requisite hours and length of time before taking leave, your request can be denied. Paternity leave is only available in connection with a new child for you and your partner. So, for instance, a request to use paternity leave to be present for the birth of your nephew will be denied.

Otherwise, your employer may be violating the law if they do not honor your request for paternity leave in Florida, which means it could be unlawful for your employer to deny your request based on your or your partner’s age, sex, national origin, religion, family size, or family dynamics.

For example, suppose that you have used paternity leave to be present for each of your eight children’s births, and your partner is now expecting your ninth child. If you are otherwise qualified to take paternity leave, your employer should grant your request. Your employer could not deny your request because they believe your family is too big or you have been present for other births.

Maternity vs. Paternity Leave in Florida

Mother and father on leave playing with their baby

Although very similar in scope and the rights afforded to eligible workers, looking at maternity vs. paternity leave reveals some differences. Only individuals who give birth are eligible for maternity leave. Maternity leave applies to expectant mothers and is intended to give them time away from work before and after birth.

Paternity leave applies to fathers whose partners are giving birth, allowing them to be present for the birth of their children and to provide care and support to their partners and newborns after birth. Although fathers are not involved in the physical delivery of their children, their legal rights to leave are the same as those of mothers.

Both maternity and paternity leave apply in situations beyond individuals who are giving birth or whose partners are giving birth. They are also available for people who are adopting children or who are taking in foster children.

Legal Advice for Navigating Paternity Leave

If you have reason to suspect your employer did not grant you paternity leave in violation of FMLA, you may have legal recourse against them. Similarly, you could have a legal claim if you took FMLA paternity leave in Florida and experienced retaliation or were fired after returning from leave.

Whether you do depends on the specific facts of your situation, and an experienced Florida FMLA lawyer can help you determine what options are available to you. Wenzel Fenton Cabassa P.A. has decades of relevant experience helping new fathers protect their legal interests following the birth of a child.

Employment laws in Florida change regularly, so it is important to consult with a firm dedicated to employee rights like Wenzel Fenton Cabassa P.A. Using our vast knowledge and experienced advocacy gained from helping numerous Florida workers like yourself, we will ensure you get the justice you deserve. Contact us today.

Related Posts

Recent Posts

Contact Us

Text Permission
Terms and Conditions(Required)
Help Guides


Dealing with unpaid wages, discrimination or wrongful termination? Get the information you need to protect your workplace rights. We offer employment law resources to help you fight for workplace justice.