Gender equality is an issue that has been argued for years but perhaps a forgotten part of gender equality is fathers being treated equally to mothers. It is very well known, and common, that women take maternity leave after the birth or adoption of a child, but did you know that men also qualify for parental leave? Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), men and women can both take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth of a newborn or the placement of an adopted or foster child. FMLA can also be taken for the care of a pregnant spouse. Please check with your employer to ensure you qualify for FMLA leave.
Unfortunately, men still face social stigma when taking paternity leave. It has been a long-standing norm for the mother to be the primary caretaker of the family's child(ren) but in today's world it is not uncommon to find a stay-at-home father or single father. Even with the availability of paternity leave, many men are still reluctant to take leave. Men have reported feeling that taking paternity leave will set them back in their career.
The EEOC recently resolved a discrimination and equal pay case filed against Estee Lauder alleging their parental leave policy gave new fathers less benefits than new mothers. An employee of Estee Lauder filed a charge with the EEOC after he was granted only two weeks of leave versus the six he had requested. Estee Lauder's policy implemented in 2013 offered four categories of leave - maternity leave, adoption leave, primary caregiver leave, and secondary caregiver leave. All of the leave options allowed for 6 weeks of paid leave, with the exception of the secondary caregiver, which only offered two weeks of paid leave. As part of the settlement, the company has put new policies in place allowing new parents up to 20 paid weeks of parental leave, regardless of gender or caretaker status. Estee Lauder put the policy in place in May and is retroactively applying it to its employees that became new parents since the beginning of the year. You can read more about the case in the EEOC's statement, here.
If you believe you are a victim of gender discrimination, please contact our office for a free consultation.