JPMorgan Enters into Record Parental Leave Settlement, A Reminder That Policies Must be Applied Equally

Last year we spoke to you about a consent decree entered into by Estee Lauder and the EEOC based on the company’s paid parental leave policy that treated males and females differently.  Well, the lawsuits did not stop there, as it was recently announced that JPMorgan has agreed to a record $5,000,000 settlement with a class of its male employees based on its parental leave policy. 

Under the JPMorgan policy, employees who were the primary caregiver following the birth of a child were granted 16 weeks of paid leave.  However, when a male employee was denied “primary caregiver” status based on the company’s presumption that females would be primary caregivers, he contacted the ACLU, who agreed to represent him and the class of male employees who were denied primary caregiver status between 2011 and 2017. 

In its enforcement guidance on parental leave, the EEOC has stated that “employers should carefully distinguish between leave related to any physical limitations imposed by pregnancy or childbirth…and leave for purposes of bonding with a child and/or providing care for a child.”  Leave related to medical conditions associated with pregnancy can be limited to women affected by pregnancy, but parental leave for care or bonding with a child “must be provided to similarly situated men and women on the same terms.”  And employers should not make any assumptions when it comes to the gender of the “primary caregiver.” 

As an example, an employer may not provide additional leave to new mothers following their recovery from childbirth for the purposes of bonding with children, and deny men the same opportunity for a bonding period.  A policy such as this would violate Title VII. 

Parental leave is a huge benefit that helps with employee recruitment, retention, job satisfaction and productivity.  Employers would be wise to institute such policies in effort to make them more appealing to potential employees.  However, it is crucial that the policies be applied equally for employees to avoid pitfalls such as these.  If you or your company are interested in implementing or changing a parental leave policy, contact the Wiley Law Office, for advice that works.