Estée Lauder has been sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over allegedly offering more maternity leave to women than paternity leave to men.
According to the EEOC, the discrimination suit began when a male stock worker in Maryland was denied the six weeks of paid parental leave for child-bonding that new mothers receive, receiving two weeks instead. Estée Lauder’s child-bonding leave is in addition to the paid leave new mothers receive for childbirth recovery.
The EEOC claims the policy violated the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and its suit seeks back pay, damages and injunctive relief for the stock worker and other male employees affected by the discrepancy in leave benefits. It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Reuters notes that since 2013, Estée Lauder has offered six weeks to both new mothers and “primary caregivers,” but the lawsuit alleges that when the man in question said he would be the primary caregiver, he was told that the benefit was designed for “surrogacy situations.” Return-to-work policies are also allegedly more flexible for moms.
“Federal law requires equal pay, including benefits, for equal work, and that applies to men as well as women,” said the EEOC’s acting director for its Washington field office. Estée Lauder told the Journal it didn’t comment on pending litigation.
More leave for fathers would be great. Maybe if dads were structurally encouraged to do more up front, then so many moms wouldn’t be the default primary caregiver who knows all the arcane secrets such as which sandwiches to make in which circumstances and how to plan for Sally’s birthday. More generous leave for personal reasons related to family beyond the kids and all manner of other human needs would be great, too! Europe is not a hellhole!
However, American business being what it is, it’s very easy to imagine this ends with HR directors smarmily shrugging when pressed to extend their maternity leave policies and pointing to the goddamn EEOC as a reason their hands are tied.