Adopting a Baby? Know What Laws Apply to You When It Comes to Time Off

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Adopting a Baby? Know What Laws Apply to You When It Comes to Time Off

Congratulations. Your adoption application was approved, and you’re about to become a parent. You’re eagerly awaiting the moment that child is in your arms. It is one of the best moments of your life, but you also have concerns. You need time off to adjust to a new family member, and you want plenty of time to bond.

Adoption isn’t a fast process. You start by applying. During pre-placement, you go through home studies, background checks, medical exams, and criminal background checks. You meet with professionals from the adoption agency to make sure you’re ready to be a parent, and then you wait for a child that matches your situation. You may be adopting an infant or a teen, and each process has its own steps.

Once you’re matched with a child and have the child come home with you, you enter post-placement. During post-placement, the adoption agency will keep checking in on you to make sure your family is a good fit. This can take six months or longer, again depending on the situation. Once the agency is satisfied all is working out well, the adoption is finalized.

California has two laws that help you get the time off that you need. As long as you qualify, your employer cannot terminate your position because you asked for time off. Learn what the California Family Rights Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act offer in terms of protection.

Understanding the California Family Rights Act

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of leave (both paid and unpaid) each year. That leave can be unpaid or paid. The break allows you time to bond with your child following an adoption or pregnancy/childbirth. It also allows you to use this 12 weeks if you or your child has a serious illness or health condition.

Not every person qualifies for CFRA. It’s important to understand the rules. You must have been employed with that employer for at least a year. You have to have accrued a minimum of 1,250 hours of work in that year. That’s almost 25 hours per week without taking any time off. If you work 20 hours a week, you won’t qualify for CFRA. Your employer has to have a minimum of five employees for you to be eligible.

If you qualify, you have to give your employer at least 30 days’ advance notice. Adoptions can make this tricky, so do your best to provide as much notice as possible. Your employer can take up to 10 days to respond to your request. You are allowed to ask for a written guarantee that your job or a similar position will be available for your return.

CFRA time off for adoptions is taken unpaid. It doesn’t have to be taken all at once. You could take six weeks off, switch with your spouse or partner for six weeks, and then take another six weeks after your significant other goes back to work. There’s an exception to this, too. If you and your spouse work for the same company, you’re limited to 12 weeks of CFRA for the two of you. You do have to take CFRA leave within a year of the adoption day.

Your employer is allowed to require you to use up accrued vacation or personal days to cover some of this time off. They cannot require you to use up your sick days. Any group benefits, such as health or dental insurance, must remain in effect during your unpaid leave. Your employer cannot cancel your insurance coverage during those 12 weeks.

When you return, you should return to your position or one that’s similar and offers the same pay. You cannot be demoted to a lower-paying position during your leave. There is an exception to this rule. If the company went through job layoffs while you were away, your company wouldn’t have to reinstate you if your job was among the terminated positions.

Check to see if you qualify for the additional six weeks of paid leave through the Family Temporary Disability Insurance (FTDI)’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) program. This program provides paid time off as long as you meet the eligibility requirements for State Disability Insurance, which are:

  • You’ve earned at least $300 and paid into CASDI for the past 5 to 18 months.
  • You haven’t taken 8 hours of PFL in the past year.
  • You’ve adopted a child in the past year.
  • You’ve lost wages due to the unpaid time taken off to bond with your adopted child.

If you qualify for PFL, it’s paid at a rate of 60% to 70% of your average weekly income. It depends on your highest quarterly earnings. If you earned less than $929 in the highest quarter, you’d get $50 a week. If you earned $929 to $5,998.57, you’d get 70%. If you earned more than $5,998.57, you’d get 60%.

There is a maximum weekly benefit of $1,357. Employees in San Francisco may qualify for additional compensation through their employer, providing that the company has a minimum of 20 employees.

What the Family and Medical Leave Act Offers

There’s also the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which is a federal law. You are given 12 weeks off after the placement of an adopted child. You can also use FMLA to care for a sick child. FMLA is unpaid, but you can ask to use vacation and personal days to provide some income if you need the pay. You have to give at least 30 days’ advance notice when possible. Once you’ve requested FMLA, your employer has five business days to respond.

To qualify, you must have worked for your employer for at least a year. If you’re a seasonal worker, the 12 months do not have to be in a row. For example, you work for a landscaper during the spring and summer each year. Over two years, you’ve accrued more than 12 months of employment. You also need to have worked for a minimum of 1,250 hours during those 12 months.

Flight attendants and flight crew will qualify if they’ve worked or received pay for at least 60% of their monthly work guarantee. They also must have worked at least 504 hours in 12 months.

The other qualification is that your employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles of the primary worksite. If your employer has 100 employees, but they’re scattered across the country, so only 20 are within 75 miles of the main worksite, you wouldn’t qualify.

When you return, you should return to the job you left or a similar position with the same pay. If you’re demoted, it’s illegal. If there were layoffs, your job is not guaranteed in that case. Be aware that key employees are not protected with guaranteed reinstatement. Key employees are defined as salaried employees in the top 10% of the highest-paid employees within 75 miles of the main worksite.

What If Your Request Is Denied?

Your employer denied your request for unpaid or paid time off for your child’s adoption. You believe you meet the requirements. What do you do now?

Contact an employment law attorney. If you meet the requirements and your employer has the minimum number of employees, there’s no reason for the denial. It could be an illegal refusal. If that’s the case, an attorney can make sure you’re treated fairly and have time off that’s needed to bond with your adopted child.

Shegerian Conniff fights for you so that you can focus on bonding with your child. We do everything in our power to make sure you’re treated fairly and within the laws. Call us to arrange a free consultation or to learn more about your rights as an adoptive parent.

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