- A federal district court has dismissed a male employee's pregnancy discrimination suit in which he alleged that he was fired because of his wife's pregnancy. The employee's claim failed because he couldn't show that he was treated differently than female employees in his position, as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires, the judge explained (The Estate of Andrew Tyler Pennington v. Southern Motion, Inc., No. 1:16-cv-110 (N.D. Miss.)).
- The judge went one step further, however, explaining that the plaintiff could instead argue that his termination was based on his association with his pregnant spouse and was because of his sex; "Put differently, the [plaintiff] must allege not only that [he] was terminated because of his partner’s pregnancy but that a female employee would not have been terminated because of her partner’s pregnancy."
- The judge noted that there is "little to no authority" on the question and also has given the plaintiff an opportunity to amend the complaint.
The judge's suggestions could require some creative arguments from the plaintiff; still, employers likely haven't seen the last of these claims.
In recent weeks, workers have filed several lawsuits alleging that employers who maintain separate parental leave policies for men and women are engaging in gender discrimination, in violation of Title VII. Both Estée Lauder and JP Morgan are facing such claims.
Fathers are increasingly taking advantage of employers' parental benefits, too, so employee engagement and retention also are at stake. According to a recent survey, 64% of employees feel like their company and colleagues treat working moms and dads differently.
In light of these recent events, employers may want to consider equal parental benefits for men and women. Employers are free to offer birth mothers time off to recover from childbirth, but bonding leave for parents — whether male or female — needs to be uniform, at least according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.