Before parenthood, you most likely had plenty of time to devote to your career. While it may not always be convenient, you can usually take on extra work responsibilities, do overtime, and generally put your work first. Your partner, family, and friends understand if you must stay late at work or miss an event. It’s just part of being a good employee, supposedly.
Having a child changes that. Suddenly, your job can no longer be your top priority. Your kids need your time, attention, and energy more than your employer ever could. However, you still need to maintain your career to give your children the life they deserve. You need to find a new work-life balance.
Every family’s circumstances are different, so there’s no single answer as to the “right” type of work-life balance for a new parent. Instead, it’s up to you to understand your rights so you’re prepared to make the changes that work for you. If you’re expecting a new child, now is the time to learn about your rights under California law to care for your family while maintaining your career.
The Many Demands of Being a Working Parent
Becoming a working parent will likely cause you to change your approach to work out of necessity. A few of the many new demands that you may face because of parenthood include:
- Pregnant people may need time off during and after their pregnancies to ensure healthy delivery and recovery from labor.
- After returning to work, lactating people may need time to pump milk.
- Both parents may want to take time off to care for a brand-new child.
- Children can get sick, so parents may need more time off work to care for them.
- Parents must enroll children in school or daycare, so they may need time to visit open-house days.
- Similarly, parents may need to leave work to pick up their kids if an emergency happens at school.
In short, parenthood means you are more likely to take time away from work to care for your kids. However, you still have obligations to your job. The biggest demand on a parent who maintains their career is finding ways to balance these competing needs healthily.
Making the Most of California’s Legal Protections for Working Parents
Despite these new demands, you may feel uncomfortable taking time off work to care for your family. Many new parents fear that this could hurt their careers.
It’s not unreasonable to worry about this. Some employers do resent giving their employees the time they need to start or care for their families. However, California laws specifically protect your right to become a working parent, whether adopting, fostering, or having a biological child. Here’s what you need to know about your rights as a parent in the workplace in California.
Both state and federal law provide specific protections for pregnant people in the workforce. This comes in two forms:
- Pregnancy disability leave: Being pregnant was not initially considered a disability for workers to receive protected time off. However, California has implemented regulations requiring employers to provide up to four months of protected leave to people who cannot safely work while carrying a healthy pregnancy to term.
- Accommodations for pregnant workers: Pregnant people who find their ability to work is limited because of their condition can request reasonable accommodations from their employer, such as altered work hours, altered duties, chairs for jobs normally performed standing, and more.
Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), parents of all genders are eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid, protected leave during the first year after welcoming a new child into their family. In California, parents can take this leave simultaneously or consecutively.
Additionally, California offers a Paid Parental Leave (PPL) program that offers new parents up to 70% of their average wages for up to eight weeks if they are eligible for unpaid leave. In 2025, this will rise to 90% of the average salary for low-income parents.
CFRA and FMLA Leave
These programs permit more than just parental leave. If your child gets sick and requires dedicated help, you can request FMLA or CFRA leave to care for them. You can take up to 12 weeks of leave from your covered employer per 12-month period to care for an ill child with the guarantee that your job will be waiting for you when you return.
Parents with school-age children can take up to eight hours a month and 40 hours a year to handle tasks related to their kids’ enrollment in school or daycare. This includes picking up children due to school emergencies, participating in school events, and attending open houses to find a new school.
Freedom From Discrimination
While discrimination against parents is not specifically illegal in California, current regulations make many potential types of discrimination unlawful. For example, it is against the law to discriminate against a worker for taking any form of leave mentioned above. Additionally, it may be considered unlawful gender discrimination if an employer terminates or refuses to promote a woman because she has or intends to have children.
Feel Safe Reclaiming Your Work-Life Balance as a Parent
There are few places in the U.S. where being a working parent is easier than in California. If you are expecting a child, you can trust that state laws protect your right to take the time you need to care for them. If your employer does violate your rights, you can hold them accountable for their actions. The first step is to talk to the expert California employment lawyers at Le Clerc & Le Clerc LLP. We have decades of experience representing employees who have had their rights violated at work. Get in touch today to learn how we can help you file a parental leave discrimination claim.