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Parental Leave: Is Equal Fair?

24 Sep 2018 4:57 PM | Rebecca Kellner (Administrator)

 Ahh… the age old question – is equal fair?  My children are constantly reminded in our house that equal and fair are not necessarily the same thing.  Let’s take parental leave as an example. 

As a mother with two children (and one of them a pretty traumatic birth), I certainly appreciate the argument that mothers should be entitled to more parental leave.  For starters, they have the whole medical incapacity thing that fathers don’t have.  But a recent EEOC settlement may have you second guessing that argument.

Estee Lauder (probably best known for makeup and skin care products) had a paid parental leave policy, which went above and beyond what any law required them to provide.  New mothers were provided 20 weeks of paid leave for bonding.  In addition, the first 6 weeks back to work they could temporarily modify their work schedule, to help ease the transition to work.  Sounds pretty good…. Unless you are a new father.  New fathers were provided less paid time and were not provided the same temporary modified work schedule upon return. 

EEOC filed a lawsuit against Estee Lauder alleging sex discrimination against males.  On July 17, 2018, Estee Lauder agreed to settle with the EEOC for $1.1 million dollars.  In addition, their parental leave policy provides the same 20 weeks of paid leave to all parents (though mothers get to start that bonding leave after their period of medical incapacity ends).  See EEOC press release here: https://www1.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/7-17-18c.cfm

 WHAAAT??!?

 It turns out that EEOC says that bonding time does need to be equal to be fair.  If the organization wants to provide separate time to mothers because of medical incapacity, that’s certainly fine (assuming you provide similar leave to all those who are medically incapacitated from work).  But if you want to provide bonding time, you need to do that on an equal basis.

 So if you just offer STD, which pays for medical incapacity, then fathers are likely using PTO or taking unpaid leave following the birth of a child and that’s perfectly ok under Wisconsin & federal law.  But if you are being generous to offer paid leave benefits for bonding purposes, make sure you are clear what part of the benefit is for bonding (as opposed to medical) and that the bonding part is made equally available to any parent (even those not physically giving birth).

We’d love to hear from you – do you offer paid parental leave (other than STD or allowing using of PTO/sick during FMLA)?

 

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