Is your employer’s parental leave policy legal?

Parental leave policies must not violation discrimination laws.

Many employers offer parental leave as part of their benefits packages. Although the details of these policies vary from employer to employer, one thing must generally hold true: the policy must not violate the law.

Unfortunately, not every employer provides a parental leave policy that meets this expectation. One employer currently facing allegations of providing an illegal parental leave policy is Estee Lauder. The giant in the make-up, fragrance and skin care industry is facing allegations of sex discrimination in its paid parental leave program. Estee Lauder is currently fighting a case in court that claims its parental leave policy discriminates against men.

Men discriminated by a parental leave policy? How can this happen? Federal law clearly states that employees cannot face different pay or benefits based on their sex. This protection is present in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In this case, a male worker for the company applied to receive a benefit offered by the employer: parental leave to bond with his child.

The father applied for six weeks of leave. The company denied the request, stating that it offers six weeks of paid parental leave of "child-bonding" time for mothers but only two weeks for fathers. Due to this policy the father did not get the requested six weeks. Instead, he got two weeks of bonding time.

The denial was reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). After an investigation, the EEOC filed suit in the United District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The case is currently in the courts.

It is important to note that in these cases state law may also apply. Pennsylvania state law, for instance, states that if an employer has childrearing leave, the leave must be "equally applicable to both male and female employees."

What can a victim of employment discrimination gain from a lawsuit? In this specific case, the man is suing for back pay as well as additional damages and injunctive relief. Injunctive relief is a legal remedy that essentially requires the employer to stop the illegal conduct. In this case, if successful the request for injunctive relief would likely result in the court requiring the employer provide the same amount of child-bonding time to both male and female employees.

What should I do if I am the victim of a similar form of discrimination? Those who are the victims of discrimination have options. Remedies, like those discussed above, are available. Contact an experienced gender discrimination lawyer to discuss your case and advocate for your interests.