In Focus: EEOC Sues Estée Lauder Over Unequal Leave for New Dads

By Stephen Miller, CEBS Sep 1, 2017
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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is suing cosmetics firm Estée Lauder for giving new mothers more paid leave for caregiving and child-bonding than new fathers. If the suit is successful, it could alter common parental leave policies in the U.S.

The Society for Human Resource Management's 2017 Employee Benefits survey report found that 30 percent of SHRM members work for organizations that provide paid maternity leave while 24 percent were at organizations that offered paid paternity leave. On average, organizations that offered paid leave for a new child provided 41 days for new mothers and 22 days for new fathers.

Violation of Federal Sex Discrimination Laws Alleged

In a lawsuit announced Aug. 30, the EEOC alleged that Estée Lauder Companies Inc. violated federal law by providing male employees who are new fathers lesser parental leave benefits than are provided to female employees who are new mothers. In addition to paid leave provided to new mothers to recover from childbirth, Estée Lauder provides new mothers six additional weeks of paid parental leave for child bonding. New fathers receive two weeks of paid leave for child bonding. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, also alleges that new mothers are provided with flexible return-to-work benefits that are not similarly provided to new fathers. The EEOC contends the policy violates the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibit discrimination in pay or benefits based on sex.
(U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Dads Viewed as 'Secondary Caregivers'

Fathers at Estée Lauder are eligible for secondary caregiver leave only, while mothers automatically get maternity leave, the EEOC said. Because mothers are entitled to up to six weeks of paid leave plus the transition benefit, while fathers get only two weeks and no transition benefit, the EEOC believes that fathers have inferior, "lesser benefits," hence fewer opportunities to bond with a newborn than are provided to mothers. The lawsuit further alleges that fathers, because of their sex, are paid at lesser rates than mothers on parental leave, though the fathers and mothers in question hold the same positions and perform equal work.
(Philadelphia magazine)

Unequal Benefits Reinforce Traditional Gender Roles

The EEOC's lawsuit against Estée Lauder is the latest to be brought against a company regarding different parental-leave policies for their female and male employees. In June, a man who works as a fraud investigator at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. charged the bank with discrimination, saying fathers were denied paid parental leave on the same terms as mothers. Advocates for equal paid leave say that the imbalance reinforces traditional gender roles by encouraging new mothers to stay at home and discouraging fathers from taking time off to care for a new child.
(Wall Street Journal

Is Paid Parental Leave Right for Your Company?

If your organization is considering whether to provide paid parental leave, take a broader, tactical look at your rewards strategy to make sure it targets your top talent. Can you afford to lose that bright young person to a competitor that provides paid parental leave? Your parental-leave policy might just convince them to stay on board.
(HR Magazine

Little Change to Maternity, Paternity Leave at U.S. Employers

High-profile organizations have announced in recent years that they were expanding their paid parental leave policies. But while large companies may be trying to one-up each other with flexibility arrangements, the broad-based National Study of Employers found that 14.5 weeks is the average maximum amount of (usually unpaid) job-guaranteed maternity leave that U.S. companies offered in 2016 and a little more than 11 weeks is the average amount of job-guaranteed paternity leave, both up only slightly from previous years.
(SHRM Online

[SHRM members-only guide How to Develop and Administer Paid Leave Programs 

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