Men and women both suffer when gender stereotypes limit their employment options and benefits. JP Morgan Chase learned this the hard way. In late May 2019, Chase agreed to pay $5 million to settle a gender equity class action case brought by male employees. The men alleged that Chase denied them equal paid parental leave after the birth of their children. Prior to the suit, Chase provided biological mothers with 16 weeks of paid leave, but all other parents were only eligible for 2 weeks of paid leave. After the complaint was filed in 2017, Chase quickly revised its policy to ensure that primary caregivers, regardless of gender, were allowed up to 16 weeks of paid leave.
This case highlights how gender inequality often prevents men from fulfilling roles as caregivers and how women continue to be stereotyped as the primary caregiver. Gender-neutral policies allow families to determine caregiving arrangements based on each family’s specific circumstances rather than an employer’s assumptions about gender. In connection with the settlement, Freda Levenson, attorney for the class and legal director of the ACLU of Ohio, said, “It’s up to the family, not the employer, to determine what their caregiving arrangements will look like. In order for women to compete on an even playing field at work, we need to be sure men can play an active role at home. American companies need to implement policies that don’t promote gender stereotypes.”
Employers should be mindful that neutral policies are becoming the expectation rather than the exception. An advocacy group, PL+US (Paid Leave for the United States), released an employer scorecard in 2018 finding that 72% of the nation’s largest employers offer equal paid leave to both parents. Neutral parental leave policies protect both biological and adoptive parents, including same-sex couples, and demonstrate an understanding that gender is not indicative of parental responsibility or role.
If you are interested in learning more about gender-neutral parental leave policies, including how your business can adequately implement such a policy, contact our office for a free consultation.