Still think only moms are the primary caregivers for children? That ’50s era mindset is the subject of an ACLU charge of discrimination recently filed with the EEOC claiming that JPMorgan Chase’s parental leave policy discriminates against dads.
When Derek Rotondo, a fraud investigator at JPMorgan, was expecting his second child, he requested parental leave. JPMorgan gives primary caregivers 16 weeks of paid parental leave and non-primary caregivers two weeks of leave. Mr. Rotondo was told that only mothers were automatically considered primary caregivers and as a father, he would have to prove that he was the primary caregiver by showing that either he was returning to work within 16 weeks of giving birth or that she was “medically incapable” of taking care of the child, according to the charge. Because his wife, a teacher, was healthy and had the summer off, he could not qualify as a primary caregiver. Mr. Rotondo’s charge also claims that the company’s policy discriminates against women and men by enforcing gender stereotypes – specifically, that raising children is female work and men, as the primary breadwinners, should return to work after the birth of their children. He also questions how the parental leave policy addresses the needs of same-sex parents, and especially two male parents.
The ACLU filed the charge on behalf of Mr. Rotondo seeking relief on a class-wide basis. The charge seeks to require changes to the company’s parental leave policy, as well as monetary relief for him and other fathers who have lost out on paid leave under the policy.
In recent guidance, the EEOC weighed in with its opinion on parental leave. According to the EEOC, employers should distinguish between leave related to pregnancy and childbirth, and leave related to providing care to a child. Leave related to pregnancy and childbirth can be limited to women, but leave for providing care to a child must be provided to men and women on the same terms. The EEOC suggests that if an employer provides mothers with leave beyond the period of recuperation from childbirth, it should provide the equivalent amount of leave to fathers.
The complaint against JPMorgan is not the first to challenge a parental leave policy as discriminatory. Two years ago, a similar complaint was lodged against CNN for offering more leave to mothers than fathers; the network subsequently changed its leave policies.
As attitudes change and men take more active roles in caring for their newborn children, claims like Mr. Rotondo’s may become more prevalent. Employers should take this opportunity to review their parental leave policies and if they provide leave beyond the period of recuperation from childbirth, they should consider revising their policies to provide the same amount of that leave to fathers.