Three years ago, when I talked my wife into getting pregnant, we agreed I’d be a house husband. Her baby is due in five weeks, and I’ve applied for parental leave. Our company offers new mothers six weeks of paid maternity leave, but only offer new fathers one week of paid paternity leave. This doesn’t seem fair and my wife and I could really use the other five weeks of pay. Can you help me write a short memo requesting more leave?
Several recent cases support your request. In July, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that Estée Lauder settled a class lawsuit by paying $1.1 million to 210 men who claimed sex discrimination under the company’s paid parental leave policy. The lawsuit alleged that the policy favored women over men in that it granted women six weeks of paid leave for child bonding, after medical leave for pregnancy. New fathers, however, could only claim two weeks of paid time off to bond with new children.
A year before, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a discrimination charge against J.P. Morgan with the EEOC. This class action claim asserted that J.P. Morgan discriminations against men by designating biological mothers as the baby’s default primary caregiver, eligible for sixteen weeks of paid parental leave, yet limits fathers to two weeks of paid parental leave.
Meanwhile, an Eighth Circuit Court ruling in Johnson v. University of Iowa provides insight into how other courts might rule. According to the Court, “If the leave given to biological mothers is granted due to the physical trauma they sustain giving birth, then it is conferred for a valid reason wholly separate from gender. If the leave is instead designed to provide time to care for, and bond with, a newborn, then there is no legitimate reason for biological fathers to be denied the same benefit.”
Your next step? Ask to meet with your HR officer or your company’s senior manager and give them your request and the above information. For your employer, this article lets them know that if they’ve created a parental leave policy, they need to outline the leave’s purpose. If they intend a mix of allowing those who give birth time to recover with time to bond with their new baby or child, they likely need to give adoptive parents and new fathers equal amounts of bonding time.
Finally, however, your email raises an ethical question. Are you looking for leave or a cash bonus toward starting your house-husband career?
© 2018, Lynne Curry
Lynne Curry writes a weekly column on workplace issues. She is author of “Solutions” and “Beating the Workplace Bully” and founded The Growth Company, an Avitus company and now serves as Regional Director of Training & Business Consulting for The Growth Company, an Avitus Group company. Send your questions to her at Lcurry@avitusgroup.com, www.thegrowthcompany.com, follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10 or via www.workplacecoachblog.com.