Estée Lauder Companies, Inc., one of the world’s leading manufacturers of makeup, fragrance, skin and hair care products, violated federal law when it implemented and administered a paid parental leave program that automatically provides employees who are new fathers lesser parental leave benefits than are provided to employees who are new mothers, according to a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
In 2013, Estée Lauder adopted a new parental leave program to provide employees with paid leave for purposes of bonding with a new child, as well as flexible return-to-work benefits when the child bonding leave expired. Under its parental leave program, in addition to paid leave already provided to new mothers to recover from childbirth, Estée Lauder also provides eligible new mothers an additional six weeks of paid parental leave for child bonding. Estée Lauder only offers new fathers whose partners have given birth two weeks of paid leave for child bonding. The suit also alleges that new mothers are provided with flexible return-to-work benefits upon expiration of child bonding leave that are not similarly provided to new fathers.
The case arose when a male employee working as a stock person in an Estée Lauder store in Maryland sought parental leave benefits after his child was born. He requested, and was denied, the six weeks of child-bonding leave that biological mothers automatically receive, and was allowed only two weeks of leave to bond with his newborn child. Such conduct violates federal laws that prohibit discrimination in pay or benefits based on sex. The suit seeks relief for the affected employee, and other male employees who were denied equal parental leave benefits because of their sex.
“It is wonderful when employers provide paid parental leave and flexible work arrangements, but federal law requires equal pay, including benefits, for equal work, and that applies to men as well as women,” said EEOC Washington Field Office Acting Director Mindy Weinstein.