A recent class-action suit highlights the importance of ensuring that your parental leave policies do not discriminate against fathers.
In the case, a male bank employee asked for 16 weeks of parental leave after his child was born. The bank’s parental leave policy allotted that amount to “primary caregivers,” but allowed only two weeks for “nonprimary caregivers.” The bank allegedly told the employee that, under the policy, birth mothers were considered the primary caregivers unless he could prove his wife either had returned to work or was not “medically capable” of caring for the child.
The wife, a teacher, was off for the summer and was not medically incapable of caring for the child, so the employee was given only the two weeks. He filed suit on behalf of himself and other bank employees who had been treated the same way, arguing that the bank discriminated based on sex by wrongly using gender stereotypes in presuming men could not be primary caregivers.
As the father pointed out, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act forbids employers from treating men and women differently based on such stereotypes. Apparently concerned about what could happen in court, the bank agreed to pay the class $5 million in exchange for the employees dropping the case. The bank also revised its policy to clarify that either a mother or a father is eligible for primary caregiver leave, and it is training its managers accordingly. Does your parental leave policy leave you vulnerable to a discrimination suit? Talk to an FMLA lawyer to find out.