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Estee Lauder Facing Suit over Parental Leave Program that Disfavors Men

September 05, 2017

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) contends in a lawsuit that Estee Lauder Companies, Inc, violated Title VII and the Equal Pay Act when it implemented and administered a paid parental leave program that automatically gives male employees who are new fathers lesser parental leave benefits than are given female employees who are new mothers.

The manufacturer and marketer of skin care, makeup, fragrance, and hair care products adopted the program in 2013 to provide employees with paid leave for purposes of bonding with a new child, as well as flexible return-to-work benefits when the child bonding leave expired, according to the EEOC.

Under the program, in addition to paid leave already provided to new mothers to recover from childbirth, Estee Lauder also gives eligible new mothers an additional six weeks of paid parental leave for child bonding. The problem, as the EEOC sees it, is that Estee Lauder only offers new fathers whose partners have given birth two weeks of paid leave for child bonding. The program allegedly also gives new mothers flexible return-to-work benefits upon expiration of child bonding leave that are not similarly given to new fathers.

The case arose when a male stock person in an Estee Lauder store in Maryland sought parental leave benefits after his child was born. He purportedly requested and was denied the six weeks of child-bonding leave that biological mothers automatically receive and instead was permitted only two weeks of leave to bond with his newborn child.

The EEOC’s complaint seeks relief for the affected employee and other male employees who were denied equal parental leave benefits due to their sex, including back pay and compensatory and punitive damages.

"It is wonderful when employers provide paid parental leave and flexible work arrangements, but federal law requires equal pay, including benefits, for equal work, and that applies to men as well as women," said EEOC Washington Field Office Acting Director Mindy Weinstein.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The case number is 2:17-cv-03897-JP.