The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently announced a lawsuit against leading cosmetic company Estée Lauder for sex discrimination.
In the lawsuit, the agency claims men were offered less parental leave benefits than women. The suit is based off a 2013 parental leave policy that allowed mothers to receive an additional six weeks of paid leave for child bonding in addition to paid leave provided to new mothers to recover from childbirth. New fathers were only offered two weeks paid leave for child bonding. Per the suit, new mothers were also offered flexible return to work benefits that were not available to new fathers.
The issue came to light when a male employee at a Maryland store was denied the six weeks of child bonding leave that is provided to new mothers. During its investigation, the EEOC broadened the scope of the investigation to review the Company’s practices on a nationwide basis.
The EEOC claims the company’s policy violates the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which does not allow discrimination in pay or benefits based on sex. The EEOC will try and seek back pay and damages on behalf of affected employees.
Enforcing equal pay laws, including targeting compensation systems and practices that discriminate based on gender, is of one of six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan. Employers should carefully review their leave and workplace flexibility policies to ensure these policies comply with both Title VII and the Equal Pay Act.
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