The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Wednesday that it has sued Estée Lauder Companies Inc., accusing the beauty giant of violating federal law when it awarded male employees fewer weeks of parental leave than female workers receive.
According to the EEOC, the discrimination suit began when a male stock worker in Maryland was denied the six weeks of paid parental leave for child-bonding that new mothers receive, receiving two weeks instead. Estée Lauder's child-bonding leave is in addition to the paid leave new mothers receive for childbirth recovery.
The EEOC claims the policy violated the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and its suit seeks back pay, damages and injunctive relief for the stock worker and other male employees affected by the discrepancy in leave benefits. It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
"Federal law requires equal pay, including benefits, for equal work, and that applies to men as well as women," said the EEOC's Washington field office acting director, Mindy Weinstein.
The suit also claims that new mothers at the company have flexible return-to-work benefits that aren't available to new fathers.
A spokeswoman for New York-based Estée Lauder said the company doesn't comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit is the latest to be filed against a company regarding different parental-leave policies for their female and male employees. In June, a man who works as a fraud investigator at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. charged the bank with discrimination, saying fathers were denied paid parental leave on the same terms as mothers.
According to a 2016 report from the Society for Human Resource Management, 26% of U.S. employers offer paid maternity leave beyond what is covered by state law or short-term disability plans, while 21% offer paid paternity leave. However, women typically receive far more time off than men: an average of 41 days for mothers and 22 days for fathers.
The imbalance, according to the report, reinforces traditional gender roles since it "may force mothers to stay at home and discourage fathers from taking time off to care for a newborn."
--Lauren Weber contributed to this article.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
August 30, 2017 16:01 ET (20:01 GMT)