Paternity Leave Protections

There are numerous benefits to taking paternity leave, from increasing bonding time with your new child to enhancing your relationship with your partner.[1] Unfortunately, we are receiving a significant number of calls from men who have been fired after notifying their employer of their intent to take paternity leave.

Not only is this illegal sex discrimination, but it is also illegal under Colorado’s new Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program (“FAMLI”), which launched January 1, 2024. This article provides an overview of your paternity leave protections and what to do if your rights are violated.

How is Paternity Leave Protected Under Employment Discrimination Laws?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (“CADA”) prohibit discrimination based on sex. These laws protect both men and women from sex discrimination.

An employer cannot treat employees differently because of their sex. For example, if an employer extends maternity leave benefits to women, it cannot then deny paternity leave benefits to men. Because that denial of benefits is based on the employee’s sex, it is illegal sex discrimination.

Also, an employer cannot discriminate against an employee for failing to conform to traditional sex stereotypes. When an employer punishes male employees that defy sex stereotypes by providing childcare for their family, which traditionally has been seen as women’s responsibility, the employer engages in impermissible sex stereotyping. This is a form of illegal sex discrimination.

Filing a Sex Discrimination Claim

Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees. CADA applies to all Colorado employers. If you have suffered from sex discrimination, you must file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) or the Colorado Civil Rights Division (“CCRD”) within 300 days or 6 months, respectively.

You must exhaust your remedies with the EEOC or CCRD before you can file a lawsuit for sex discrimination. It’s a good idea to consult with an employment law attorney to ensure you file a complaint with the correct agency within the statute of limitations, and for assistance during this process.

How is Paternity Leave Protected Under FAMLI?

New parents—mothers and fathers alike—may use FAMLI leave to care for a new child, including adopted and fostered children. FAMLI provides most Coloradans 12 weeks of paid leave per year. Employees may use their FAMLI leave all at once, intermittently, or to create a reduced work schedule.

Most Colorado employees are eligible for FAMLI benefits. Benefits are available, but slightly different, for employees of local government organizations that opted out of the program and for self-employed Coloradans.

You must notify your employer of your intent to take FAMLI leave at least 30 days in advance. Your health insurance benefits must remain in place while you’re on FAMLI leave, and if you have worked at your employer for at least 180 days, your job is protected, too.

It is illegal for an employer to interfere with an employee’s right to take FAMLI leave or retaliate against an employee for doing so. For example, when an employee notifies his employer of his intent to take paternity leave under FAMLI and the employer then fires that employee, that is illegal interference and retaliation.

Filing a FAMLI Retaliation Claim

An employee whose rights were violated under FAMLI may file a lawsuit against the employer within two years after the violation. The CDLE is also performing a limited number of investigations into retaliation claims. As with a sex discrimination claim, it’s a good idea to consult with an employment law attorney to ensure you file a lawsuit with the correct court within the statute of limitations.

How Livelihood Law Can Help

Navigating the ins and outs of paternity leave protections can be challenging without legal counsel. Livelihood Law has extensive experience representing clients that have been denied benefits or been discriminated against at work. We are here to make sure that your rights are protected. Contact us today to find out what your options are and to protect your rights.

[1] McKinsey & Company, A Fresh Look at Paternity Leave: Why the Benefits Extend Beyond the Personal (Mar. 5, 2021),