For years, scholars, activists and mothers have criticized policies that place the burden of child-rearing overwhelmingly on women. Increasingly, fathers are joining the criticism of these policies — and asserting their legal rights to challenge them.
“On Thursday, JPMorgan Chase announced that it had reached a tentative settlement in a class-action case initiated by a father who was denied the 16-week paid parental leave that the company began offering in 2016. He was offered only two weeks, on the grounds that he was not the primary caregiver.
As part of the proposed settlement, the company will take steps to ensure that its policy is administered in a gender-neutral way. And it will create a $5 million fund to compensate up to about 5,000 fathers who were shortchanged in the past.
Other companies have seen their parental leave policies for new fathers challenged in recent years. A suit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission produced a settlement last year with the cosmetics giant Estée Lauder.
But now class-action litigation is bringing even more pressure to bear. Experts said the settlement with JPMorgan Chase, if approved by a judge, would be the first to result from a class-action case brought by employees.
“This gives an incentive for other workers to come forward” at other companies, said Peter Romer-Friedman of the firm Outten & Golden, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs. “Without a settlement here, workers wouldn’t receive the benefit of learning about behavior that we believe is unlawful and needs to be reformed.”
Under the law, employers can justify longer parental leave for biological mothers only on the basis of medical necessity. Any paid leave beyond the time it would take a mother to recover from childbirth — which courts have typically recognized to be around six weeks, though the length can vary in individual cases — must be offered to fathers as well.”
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