Two years ago, Derek Rotondo, an Ohio father, asked his employer, JPMorgan Chase, for paid parental leave. He said he was told that in most cases only mothers were considered primary caregivers and were eligible for the full 16 weeks of leave that the company offered new parents. Unless he could prove that his wife had returned to work or was medically incapable of caring for the baby, Rotondo would be eligible for only two weeks of paid leave. (In 2018, Chase increased paid parental leave for nonprimary caregivers to six weeks.)
In response, Rotondo filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claiming the company's paid-leave policy discriminated against men.
On May 30, JPMorgan Chase agreed to pay $5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of Rotondo and other male employees who said they were denied access to the same paid parental leave as mothers between 2011 and 2017.
SHRM Online has selected the following articles and resources to provide a deeper look into this topic.
Two Parents Can Be 'Primary' Caregivers
Rotondo, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and attorneys with Outten & Golden, filed both the complaint and proposed settlement in Cincinnati federal court. "I love my children, and all I wanted was to spend time with them when they were born," Rotondo said in a statement. "I'm proud that since I filed my charge, Chase has clarified its policy to ensure that both male and female employees who wish to be the primary parental caregiver have equal access to those benefits."
The $5 million settlement will compensate up to 5,000 dads denied paid primary caregiver leave from 2011 to 2017 and will cover their legal fees and administrative costs. Chase has agreed to train its employees on how to administer its gender-neutral policy on paid parental leave.
"Categorizing one parent as primary and one as secondary is just not the way people think in 2019," commented Meshal DeSanti, a spokesperson for the advocacy group Paid Family and Medical Leave for Everyone Working in the U.S.
(Courthouse News Service)
Corporate Policies Still Reflect Gender Stereotypes
"While 16 weeks of parental leave is quite generous, and we wish more companies would follow Chase's lead, caregiving leave must also be offered on an equal basis to men and women," said Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Women's Rights Project. "Unfortunately, the gender stereotype that raising children is a woman's job is still prevalent, and is reflected in far too many corporate policies."
"All parents, regardless of their sex, deserve fair paid leave," said Peter Romer-Friedman, an Outten & Golden civil rights attorney. "Even as some companies like Chase expand the amount of paid leave to their employees, it is important for all to remember that these policies must follow our historic civil rights laws. We hope that other fathers like Derek Rotondo will take a stand for gender equality at their companies."
[SHRM members-only how-to guide: How to Develop and Administer Paid Leave Programs]
Suit Based on Federal and State Discrimination Statutes
Rotondo's discrimination claim argued that JPMorgan's policy violated federal and state laws that prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on gender or gender-based stereotypes.
JPMorgan ultimately granted Rotondo the full leave, and while the bank moved to clarify its policy, it wouldn't detail how its policy was clarified.
To Improve Gender Equality, Help Men Take Parental Leave
Employers serious about building gender equality in their organizations should help men take paternity leave as often as women take maternity leave. Among the steps to help employers take a more inclusive approach to paternal and parental leave:
- Have parental-leave policies for men. Expand paternity policy to match maternity policy or, better yet, implement a nongender-based parental-leave policy.
- Help leadership understand and support paternal leave. Even the most generous paternity leave will not be used if leaders don't genuinely support it.
- Build a culture that supports paternal leave. Many companies will require significant education to encourage men to take leave. Directly confront the notion that child care is "women's work."
- Provide more education, resources and support for line managers. It is critical to get line managers on board with any policy.
Drafting a Parental Leave Policy that Won't Get You Sued
Last year, the EEOC settled a class action suit against cosmetics firm Estée Lauder. The company agreed to a $1.1 million payment to a class of fathers and agreed to a consent decree that requires the company to avoid treating dads in a discriminatory manner with regard to paid leave for new parents.
"Although the EEOC makes clear that you can treat mom better to allow her to recover from childbirth, employers cannot treat the sexes differently when it comes to bonding leave," wrote attorney Jeff Nowak, a shareholder with law firm Littler. "If you provide paid parental leave to female employees for bonding with a newborn, as opposed to leave provided as a result of pregnancy-related conditions (e.g., pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions), you must provide the same leave to men or risk a gender discrimination claim."
[Visit SHRM's resource page for Paid Time Off]