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Lessons from Estée Lauder's parental leave settlement with EEOC

Erin Mulvaney writes, "Estée Lauder settled a dispute with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over the agency’s first lawsuit targeting a parental leave policy that gave new mothers more time off than new fathers, in an agreement that signals a shift in how corporations and regulators respond to such policies.

The settlement, in which the company admitted no fault, included a $1 million payment to more than 200 male workers and policy changes at the company. What the New York-based cosmetics giant agreed to this month—and where the agency came down against the company—could be instructive to employers.

Parental leave and paid time off have increasingly grabbed more attention in the political and corporate landscape. The United States lags behind almost all developed nations for its lack of a national paid leave policy and employment attorneys say issues surrounding leave could play a central role in the imbalance of power between men and women in the workplace.

The case against Estée Lauder highlighted broader questions about whether men should be equally considered for parental leave at a time when more companies are offering flexible packages to all employees, including men, adoptive parents and same-sex couples.

At the center of the dispute was a 2013 change to the company’s policy that attempted to offer a broader policy for employees who take leave as new parents. The EEOC sued the company for giving a male employee two weeks of parental leave for child bonding time, rather than the six for women."


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