Paternity Leave Discrimination: Can Fathers Be Victims Too?

Advice, Caregiver Discrimination, Family Responsibilities Discrimination
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dadpic4We recently blogged in an article titled “Can a Man Be the Victim of Family Responsibilities Discrimination” that men can be illegally discriminated against for taking or requesting leave for family responsibilities. But it turns out this isn’t the only discrimination that men face in the workplace.

For example, has your employer treated fathers and mothers differently when it comes to parental leave by providing more maternity leave than paternity leave? If the answer is yes, your employer may be illegally discriminating against fathers. Perhaps you have been the victim of such discrimination.

Josh Levs recently faced this sort of discrimination, but he didn’t just sit back and take it. He fought his employer and won. Read below for details about his case as well as an explanation as to why he prevailed.

Josh Levs’s Case Against Time Warner

Josh Levs is a journalist for CNN, which is a division of Time Warner. Time Warner provided new mothers and adoptive parents (whether a mother or father) 10 weeks of paid leave. However, new biological fathers only received two weeks of paid leave. Josh Levs repeatedly asked for 10 weeks of paid leave since that’s what was available to new mothers and adoptive parents, but the company denied his request.

Levs believed this was discriminatory and filed a charge of discrimination against Time Warner with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A charge is a formal written complaint.

As a sidenote, filing a charge is often a prerequisite for bringing a civil lawsuit against your employer. For a general background about filing a charge and how it fits into an overall discrimination claim, take a look at our articles “How to File a Pregnancy Discrimination Claim in Virginia” and “How to File a Pregnancy Discrimination Claim in Washington, D.C.

About a year after he filed the charge, Time Warner agreed to change its parental leave policy so that any parents, whether biological or adoptive, would get six weeks of paid leave to be with their new child.

If you would like more information about Levs’s fight against Time Warner, check out the New York Times article “Standing Up for the Rights of New Fathers.”

How and Why Did Josh Levs Win?

Let’s look at the legal basis for his claim. Levs’s claim was brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Among other things, Title VII prohibits discrimination based on gender. Levs argued that Time Warner’s policy of offering only two weeks of paid leave to biological fathers was discriminatory since biological mothers were given 10 weeks of paid leave.

But you might be thinking, “What about women who need more time off from giving birth? After all, they’re the ones physically giving birth and perhaps they need more time to recover from the birth than a man would need.” This argument is plausible, especially since the law allows for differential treatment among men and women in certain situations.

However, if Time Warner made this argument, it would fail because it gave new adoptive parents 10 weedadpic3ks of paid leave, regardless of whether the new adoptive parent was a mother or father. Also, adoptive parents, by definition, haven’t given birth to the child they are adopting. So Time Warner’s reason for giving new biological fathers so much less paid leave is not based on medical necessity due to physical childbirth. Understandably, Time Warner changed its parental leave policy.

For more information about how Title VII protects men, see our article “Title VII Applies to Men Too!

Summing It Up

  • As evidenced by Josh Levs’s case against Time Warner, a parental leave policy that discriminates based on sex is likely to be considered illegal by the EEOC and courts.
  • Title VII protects men, in addition to women, against sex discrimination.
  • A charge is a formal written complaint and must be filed before you can bring a civil lawsuit.