In 2016, Derek Rotondo requested paid parental leave from his employer, JPMorgan Chase. He claims he was told that in most cases, only primary caregivers (presumably mothers) are eligible for the full 16 weeks of parental leave, and that he would only be eligible for two weeks of paid leave as the secondary caregiver. In June of 2017, Rotondo filed a charge with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of all fathers who have been affected by this policy.
The charge alleged that Chase had a “pattern or practice of discriminating against fathers in the provision of paid parental leave by denying them caretaking leave on the same terms as mothers based on their sex and sex-based stereotypes” in violation of Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act and Ohio law. The charge also alleged that Chase’s policies presumptively treated mothers as primary caregivers eligible for 16 weeks of paid parental leave and treated fathers as non-primary caretakers eligible for only two weeks of paid parental leave.
After Rotondo filed this charge, Chase granted him the full 16 weeks of caregiver leave, and Chase clarified its parental leave policy to ensure that all employees seeking to become the primary caregiver to their new child receive equal access. Just this past month, the parties reached a settlement with Chase paying $5 million to fathers who alleged that they had been unlawfully denied access to parental leave. Additionally, Chase will continue to maintain its current gender-neutral parental leave policy and train the employees administrating it on is gender neutral application.
This $5 million settlement should be a lesson to all employers regarding the benefit of gender-neutral policies and the dangers of stereotyping. While such policies can be different for mothers relating to the recovery from of childbirth and/or pregnancy, they should be gender neutral in terms of caregiving and bonding time. To avoid a violation of Title VII, all employees should be treated the same with respect to their compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment regardless of their sex.
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