A JPMorgan Chase employee sued the company for denying him the designation of primary caregiver and the 16 weeks of paid parental leave that comes with it, reports the Chicago Tribune. Backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Derek Rotondo filed possibly the first private-sector paid leave suit that distinguishes primary from second caregiver status.
Rotondo wanted to be more involved with he and his wife's second child and therefore requested primary caregiver status so he could go out on paid parental leave. JPMorgan Chase told him mothers are presumed to be the primary caregivers and that he had to show that his wife lacked that status.
Since Rotondo's wife had their second child in the summer and was off for the season, she couldn't prove she was the primary caregiver. So, Rotondo sued the company. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said if the case has merit and isn't settled, it moves on to a federal court.
The presumption that mothers are the primary caregivers likely stems from women typically having the larger or sometimes singular share of childcare responsibilities. This perception leads to a domino-effect of issues that affect women all the way into retirement.
Interestingly, companies are opting for "primary and secondary caregiver" as the proper terms to instill some sense of gender neutrality. But such policies may not be so gender neutral in practice. Although companies like Ikea and American Express offer both parents generous paid time off benefits, mothers still tend to recieve more paid time off than fathers.
Make no mistake: Paid time off is key to keeping women in the workplace at all. But a perception that women are supposed to be primary caregivers forces them out of the workplace more often, leading to fewer earnings and problems with retirement savings down the line. In fact, recent studies show that women's retirement savings are almost a third less than men's partly due to time spent out of the workforce — especially problematic since women tend to live longer.
The unprecidented Rotondo case could be a "wake-up call" for employers to review their paid parental leave policies and consider how the policies define primary and secondary caregivers.