In August of this year the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued the company, Estee Lauder, regarding its parental leave policy. The lawsuit was initiated in a Pennsylvania federal court. The basis of the suit alleges that the company’s current leave policy constitutes gender discrimination by distinguishing between fathers and mothers. The policy creates primary and secondary caregiver categories that allocate different time limits on leave. EEOC is arguing that the practices behind the seemingly gender-neutral categories actually result in additional leave time for mothers.
More on EEOC’s Case
EEOC points out that Estee Lauder’s parental leave policy benefits mothers more than fathers even at the secondary caregiver level. It is said that biological mothers qualify for a separate maternity leave policy that offers additional time off and a flexible work schedule following the leave. It is also alleged that fathers were explicitly told that they did not qualify for the additional maternity leave benefits. According to EEOC, fathers are currently limited to two weeks of paid leave, while mothers receive up to six weeks and a subsequent flexible schedule.
EEOC claims that these practices are in violation of federal laws regulating gender bias at places of employment. Federal law requires that both genders be paid or compensated at an equal rate.
Estee’s Lauder’s current leave policy was created in 2013. This case stems from a 2015 complaint from a stock room employee who requested six weeks leave and was offered two. Up until now, the company has not issued an official statement on the matter.
The Future of the Case
Some legal experts expect the case to fall in Estee Lauder’s favor. Many employers use the primary/secondary distinctions in their leave policies. If there is proof that the policy is being enforced on a consistent basis it will be difficult for EEOC to prove that a bias exists. Since litigation is a lengthy matter it wlil be a while until the court renders its own decision on the case.