Does JPMorgan’s Parental Leave Policy Lead to Sex Discrimination?

Sex Discrimination
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Paid parental leave is a luxury in the United States. We previously wrote about the sad state of paid parental leave in our blog post “The Case for Paid Parental Leave in the United States,” where we discussed some of the unfortunate statistics as well as the benefits of paid parental leave.

Although the vast majority of states do not require paid parental leave, a few companies offer it as part of their benefits packages. But sometimes, a company’s paid parental leave policy can result in improper sex discrimination. How does this happen? Let’s look at JPMorgan’s paid parental leave policy to answer that question.

JPMorgan’s Paid Parental Leave Policy

JPMorgan Chase & Co. is one of the most prominent banking institutions in the world. To stay competitive, it tries to attract the best workers. One way it does this is by offering benefits that other companies do not offer, such as paid parental leave.

JPMorgan offers 16 weeks of paid parental leave to the child’s “primary caregiver” but only two weeks of paid leave to the “non-primary caregiver.” At first glance, this seems like a good policy. However, one of JPMorgan’s male employees, Derek Rotondo, recently discovered that this differentiation was very discriminatory.

Background Facts

Rotondo worked as a fraud investigator for JPMorgan in Ohio. When he and his wife had their second child, he requested 16 weeks of paid leave as a primary caregiver under JPMorgan’s paid parental leave policy.

JPMorgan allowed Rotondo only two weeks of leave rather than the full 16 weeks he requested. Because Rotondo was male, JPMorgan automatically assumed he would be the non-primary caregiver.

The only way Rotondo could receive 16 weeks of paid parental leave was to prove that he was the primary caregiver. To do this, he would need to qualify through one of JPMorgan’s exceptions: (1) he could prove that his wife had returned to work before the expiration of 16 weeks or (2) he could provide documentation that his wife was medically incapable of providing any caregiving responsibilities for their child.

Derek Rotondo’s Charge of Discrimination

Believing this policy to be discriminatory, Rotondo filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging that JPMorgan’s paid parental leave policy violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) because it discriminated based on sex.

A charge is an official complaint filed with the EEOC. An employee must file a charge before initiating a civil lawsuit against the employer. A copy of Rotondo’s charge can be found on the ACLU’s website. The EEOC’s webpage “Filing a Charge of Discrimination” provides more general information about how to file a charge.

Why Exactly Is JPMorgan’s Paid Parental Leave Policy Discriminatory?

According to Rotondo’s charge, JPMorgan’s paid parental leave policy discriminates based on sex because it automatically assumes that mothers are primary caregivers, while fathers are non-primary caregivers. This assumption is more than symbolic.

The only way a father can achieve primary caregiver status with respect to JPMorgan’s paid parental leave policy is to prove he qualifies for one of the two exceptions. Because women are already assumed to be primary caregivers, they are not burdened with this additional requirement. But there’s more to this difference than extra paperwork.

JPMorgan’s default classification of who constitutes a primary caregiver can result in fathers being unable to obtain the full 16 weeks of paid parental leave, while an identically situated mother can take advantage of the full 16 weeks without jumping through any additional hoops.

Recall that the two exceptions Rotondo could use involved proving that his wife had returned to work or that she was medically incapable of caring for her child. This means that if a father requests the full 16 weeks of paid leave but doesn’t prove that he’s qualified for an exception, he’s limited to two weeks of paid parental leave. End of story.

But let’s flip things around and pretend that Rotondo was a mother instead of a father.

As a result of JPMorgan’s default designation of mothers as primary caregivers, if “Mrs. Rotondo” had asked for 16 weeks of paid parental leave, she would have received it. She would not have had to prove that her husband (or partner) had returned to work or was medically unable to care for the child. If she couldn’t have satisfied either of the two exceptions that apply only to fathers (if her husband was at home and was capable of caring for the child), she would still receive 16 weeks of paid parental leave.

This isn’t the first time a large company’s paid parental leave policy has been challenged as discriminatory. Time Warner faced a similar accusation when Josh Levs, a new father, only received two weeks of paid parental leave, not the 10 weeks granted to new mothers. You can read more about this case in our earlier blog post “Paternity Leave Discrimination: Can Fathers Be Victims Too?

So What Happens Next?

There is no lawsuit yet—so far, Rotondo has only submitted a charge to the EEOC. Next, the EEOC will try to reach a settlement between the parties through mediation. If that doesn’t work, the EEOC will investigate Rotondo’s allegations to see whether they have any merit. If the EEOC finds that JPMorgan violated Title VII, it will again try to arrange a settlement. If no settlement can be reached, the EEOC may either sue JPMorgan on Rotondo’s behalf or allow Rotondo to sue JPMorgan himself.

Summing It Up

  • Most states and companies do not offer or require paid parental leave.
  • If a company decides to go above and beyond what the law requires and offer a benefit, such as paid parental leave, the benefit must be offered in a nondiscriminatory manner.
  • Title VII prohibits various forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on sex.

Does your company have a parental leave policy that has resulted in discrimination against you based on your sex? At the Spiggle Law Firm, we believe in the equal rights of fathers and mothers, and we fight for justice for both. Please contact our office for more information about what you should do next.