Is Your Company’s Parental Leave Policy Discriminatory?


By: Jamie Salazer 

Recently, there have been many challenges to companies’ parental leave policies, which provide employees who are new parents with time off to bond with their newborn or adopted children.[1] Importantly, parental leave, some argue, is not provided to a new parent in order for the birth parent to recover from the childbirth.[2] These challenges allege that some companies’ parental leave policies discriminate against male employees by allowing female employees more time off, which reinforces “archaic gender roles and sex-based stereotypes.”[3] Most recently, one of the nation’s largest law firms, Jones Day, was hit with a lawsuit alleging that the company’s parental leave policy discriminated between employees based on gender.[4]  Mark C. Savignac and Julia Sheketoff, both attorneys at Jones Day during the time of the alleged discrimination, filed a lawsuit against claiming that Jones Day discriminated against male employees in its parental leave policy by permitting female employees eight additional weeks of parental leave than male employees.[5]

The challenges Jones Day is currently facing over their parental leave policy is not unusual.[6] There have been countless other lawsuits filed against large companies recently regarding allegedly similar discriminatory parental leave policies.[7] Indeed, in May 2019, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio, and Outten & Golden LLP announced a settlement agreement with JPMorgan Chase regarding its paid parental leave policy.[8] JPMorgan Chase settled this class action lawsuit and paid the fathers denied leave $5 million dollars.[9] In the settlement agreement, JPMorgan Chase also agreed to change its parental leave policy in order to make it gender neutral.[10] Further, in 2018 the Estée Lauder Companies settled a similar lawsuit for $1.1 million for its alleged discriminatory parental leave policy.[11]

Given the current pending litigation against the law firm of Jones Day and past settlements of JPMorgan Chase and the Estée Lauder Companies, many companies should review their parental leave policies. Indeed, companies that offer more time to female employees then male employees for parental leave, should consider making the amount of time equal for both genders. If not, such companies risk a pending lawsuit and potentially paying a significant amount of money in order to defend such practice or to reach a settlement with their employees. 


[1]See Noam Scheiber, Couple’s Suit Over Parental Leave Is New Challenge to Big Law Firm,N.Y. Times (Aug. 14, 2019), https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/14/business/economy/jones-day-lawsuit.html (noting that one of the nation’s largest law firms was hit with two lawsuits from employees, one was a class action lawsuit filed by female employees which alleged discrimination and the other lawsuit challenged the firm’s parental-leave policy).

[2]Id.

[3]See id. 

[4]Id. 

[5]Id.(claiming that this policy enforces “archaic gender roles”). 

[6]See Estee Lauder Companies to Pay $1.1 Million to Settle EEOC Class Sex Discrimination Lawsuit, EEOC(July 17, 2018), https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/7-17-18c.cfm; Chase to Pay $5 Million to Male Employees Who Allege They Were Denied Parental Leave on the Basis of Sex, American Civil Liberties Union(May, 30, 2019), https://www.aclu.org/press-releases/aclu-dads-reach-historic-paid-parental-leave-class-action-settlement-jpmorgan-chase.

[7]See EEOC, supra note 6;  (July 17, 2018); American Civil Liberties Union, supranote 6.

[8]American Civil Liberties Union, supranote 6.

[9]Id.

[10]Id.

[11]EEOC, supra note 6. 

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