JPMorgan Chase is paying $5 million to settle a class-action case alleging the corporation denied male workers the same chance as female workers to stay home with their newborn child.
The proposed settlement is the largest-ever sum for a parental-leave discrimination case, according to one attorney for the suing father — and the case could make other companies think hard about how they carry out their own family leave policies.
To qualify for 16 weeks of paid parental leave, a male employee alleged he was asked by HR to submit documentation that his wife was ‘medically incapable’ of providing any care for their infant.
“We are pleased to have reached an agreement in this matter and look forward to more effectively communicating the policy so that all men and women employees are aware of their benefits,” Reid Broda, JPMorgan Chase & Co. associate general counsel, said in a statement.
The $5 million will go to male employees working at the company who felt they were discouraged or denied their chance to take advantage of the paid leave they deserved as primary care givers. The proposed settlement was filed Thursday in Ohio federal court and still needs a judge’s approval.
JPMorgan Chase JPM, -1.07% is not admitting liability in the matter.
The case dates back to May 2017, when Chase employee Derek Rotondo readied for the birth of his second child, Lincoln. Rotondo asked human resources for 16 weeks of paid parental leave as a primary care giver. The company had expanded its paid parental leave policy from 12 weeks to 16 weeks for primary care givers months earlier.
But a human-resources representative told Rotondo that women were presumed to be children’s primary care givers, and he could only qualify for the full 16-week paid leave under certain circumstances, such as submitting documentation that his wife was “medically incapable” of providing any care for the infant. He was initially allowed to take only two weeks off and filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Both sides then worked out a deal, culminating in Thursday’s announcement.
In December 2017, JPMorgan Chase changed its leave policies to clearly guarantee that both men and women could be considered the primary care giver.
Furthermore, soon after Rotondo filed his EEOC complaint, Chase gave him the full 16 weeks of leave. In December 2017, Chase changed its leave policies to clearly guarantee that both men and women could be considered the primary care giver. Under the settlement terms, the company will make sure its human resource staff is trained to apply the leave policy equally.
Don’t Miss: Giving this one free gift to your wife should transform your marriage
“I love my children, and all I wanted was to spend time with them when they were born,” Rotondo said Thursday. “I’m proud that, since I filed my charge, Chase has clarified its policy to ensure that both male and female employees who wish to be the primary parental care giver have equal access to those benefits.”
“While 16 weeks of parental leave is quite generous, and we wish more companies would follow Chase’s lead, care-giving leave must also be offered on an equal basis to men and women,” said one of Rotondo’s attorneys, Galen Sherwin, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project.
Observers say the case is an important win for parents — but it also underscores the scarcity of paid leave across the country. A combined 15% of workers in private industry and workers in local and state government had access to paid family leave in March 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said.
A combined 15% of workers in private industry and workers in local and state government had access to paid family leave in March 2017.
Though the District of Columbia and five states have paid family and medical leave laws, there’s no federal law. The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 mandated 12 weeks of leave for some new parents — but there’s no requirement that companies pay those workers while they’re off.
“This case highlights the urgent need for a comprehensive national paid family and medical leave program that supports all working families, ensuring that the time parents and babies have to bond is not dependent on workplace, gender, income, or ZIP code,” said Patricia Cole, senior director of federal policy at ZERO TO THREE, an organization pushing for laws that supporting early child development and the parents raising those children.
There could be approximately 5,000 male workers in the class, according to Peter Romer-Friedman, one of Rotondo’s attorneys.
“This settlement, more than any other prior settlement in this area, has big ramifications for employers who are thinking about what the right policy might be for them,” Romer-Friedman said.
He said his office routinely gets calls from all sorts of male workers who are “being shamed” or told they can’t take parental leave. “They are punished for failing to conform to this age-old ‘Mad Men’ stereotype,” he said.
But Thursday, Romer-Friedman said his office has also been calls from happy male workers at Chase too. They are “happy to see change has come and people are listening for the needs of men to have robust parental leave just like women,” he said.
Shares of JP Morgan Chase are up more than 9% since the start of the year. In the same time period, the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.17% is up 7.6%.