- Estee Lauder Companies Inc. has reached a “settlement in principle” with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) over claims that the cosmetics giant's paternity leave policy violated federal law.
- EEOC's 2017 lawsuit alleged that the company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by giving new fathers less paid parental leave than new mothers, discriminating against men because of their sex. Estee Lauder’s paid leave policy offered new mothers six weeks of paid leave for bonding with a baby (plus recovery time for birth mothers), but gave new fathers only two weeks of paid leave for bonding. The suit also claims that the company provided new mothers with flexible return-to-work benefits that weren't available to new fathers.
- Details of the agreement have not been released as the parties need more time to finalize the terms of the settlement, court documents say.
Employers can offer birth mothers medical leave for pregnancy and to recover from childbirth, but paid bonding leave cannot differ based on gender, according to EEOC. If bonding leave is offered, men and women must be able to take equal amounts, the commission says in its Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues.
JPMorgan Chase faced similar claims last year. An employee alleged in an EEOC complaint that it maintained separate leaves for "primary caregivers" and "secondary caregivers" and refused to offer him the longer "primary caregiver" leave unless he could show that his wife couldn't serve as their new baby's primary caregiver. Female employees, on the other hand, were automatically awarded "primary caregiver" status.
As companies increasingly offer paid parental leave, it's important for HR to consider the EEOC's position when setting policies.