- JPMorgan Chase will pay $5 million to settle a class action lawsuit with male employees who alleged the company discriminated against them when it denied them the same amount of paid parental leave given to women at the company, according to a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
- Chase employee Derek Rotondo — whose sex discrimination charge led to the class action, according to ACLU — said in a complaint that he had asked to take 14 weeks of "primary caregiver" leave after his son was born, in line with Chase's policy that such caregivers were allowed to take up to 16 weeks of paid leave following birth of a child. But Rotondo alleged Chase's HR department denied this request, saying that mothers were presumptively considered primary caregivers, while fathers were instead eligible for only two weeks of parental leave unless they could show their partners or spouses were incapacitated or had returned to work.
- Rotondo filed suit in 2017 alleging sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and state law, ACLU said. After the charge was filed, Chase gave Rotondo 16 weeks of paid leave and clarified its policy as gender-neutral. Members of the class include all male JPMorgan Chase employees nationwide who took the maximum amount of non-primary caregiver leave between 2011 and 2017, and who would have otherwise qualified for paid primary caregiver leave.
Paid parental leave may be viewed as a leading-edge benefit offering in the U.S, a country with no federal guarantee of paid parental leave, but such policies can still create potential compliance problems. Last year, Estée Lauder reached a similar settlement with EEOC when the agency alleged the cosmetics company granted six weeks of paid leave to new mothers but only two weeks of paid leave to new fathers.
These cases may arise when employers fail to specify whether the leave offered is intended for different parts of the post-childbirth process, Jeff Nowak, now a shareholder at Littler Mendelson, told employers at a 2018 conference. Nowak said it's okay for employers treat birth mothers differently when allocating "recovery" time post-childbirth, something encouraged by EEOC's own guidelines. Otherwise, EEOC requires that bonding leave "be provided to similarly situated men and women on the same terms."
The problem in the Estée Lauder case, according to Nowak, was that the company framed the unequal periods of leave as leave to be used for bonding. The company would later roll out a new policy offering up to 20 weeks of paid parental leave to parents of both genders, with an additional six to eight weeks of leave for birth parents.
Employers also may want to pay attention to the variety of state and local laws governing paid leave, which have created a patchwork of obligations in the absence of an expansive federal law. Following Maine's recent law requiring employers to offer up to 40 hours of paid leave annually for any purpose, some experts believe these laws soon may become more expansive in terms of what they allow employees to do with paid leave.