- REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Fathers at JPMorgan Chase are telling their employer that they want more paid time off to care for their kids, too.
In recent years, many US companies have begun offering mothers longer paid leave. Just last year JPMorgan announced it would increase paid leave for primary caregivers from 12 weeks to 16 weeks.
But that same amount of time rarely extends to fathers. A fraction of major employers – like Etsy, Netflix, Facebook, and Spotify – offer equal time to moms and dads.
When JPMorgan Chase upped its leave policy last year, nonprimary caregivers were given two weeks of paid leave instead of one.
This was a small consolation for Derek Rotondo, a fraud investigator who has worked at JPMorgan since 2010 and who filed a class action charge Thursday claiming that the company discriminated against him and other fathers by denying fathers paid parental leave on the same terms as mothers.
His point of contention is that the bank “presumptively” considers fathers to be non-primary caregivers and biological mothers to be the default primary caregivers.
Rotondo says that when he sought approval to take parental leave as the primary caregiver, he was told that fathers can only be considered primary caregivers if they can demonstrate that their spouse or partner has returned to work or that “the mother” is medically incapable of caring for the child.
“When I found out how JPMorgan’s parental leave policy was actually implemented, I was shocked,” said Rotondo in a press release. “It was like something out of the 1950s. Just because I’m a father, not a mother, it shouldn’t prevent me from being the primary caregiver for my baby. I hope that JPMorgan will change this policy and show its support for all parents who work for the company.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio, and the employment law firm Outten & Golden LLP filed the discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of Rotondo, who is the father of two young children, and all fathers at JPMorgan.
The charge alleges that JPMorgan’s parental leave policy violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Ohio Fair Employment Practices Act, and other state and local laws that prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on sex or sex-based stereotypes.
“JPMorgan’s parental leave policy is outdated and discriminates against both moms and dads by reinforcing the stereotype that raising children is women’s work, and that men’s work is to be the breadwinner,” said Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, in a press release. “JPMorgan needs to make its family leave policy reflect the realities of modern families working in America today.”
This isn’t the first time dads have taken their employers to court over their ability to take paid time off to care for their kids.
In 2015 former CNN reporter Josh Levs settled his suit alleging CNN’s paternity leave policy discriminated against biological dads. At the time, the news channel owned by the Turner Broadcasting System offered 10 weeks of paid leave to biological mothers and adoptive parents, but just two weeks to biological fathers.
“It is long past the time that American companies implement parental leave policies that comply with federal law and treat men and women equally,” said Peter Romer-Friedman, an Outten & Golden civil rights attorney who represented Levs, in a press release. “All parents, regardless of their sex, deserve fair paid leave so they can bond with their babies.”
- Jacob Bøtter/Flickr
Even when paternity leave is offered, the social pressure for fathers to return to work prematurely prevents many from using it.
Stewart Friedman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, previously told Business Insider that when he studied unlimited-vacation policies, the main issue he saw was employees’ fear of using vacation days and looking less committed than their colleagues. That fear extends to parental leave policies, as well.
A study by Boston College’s Center for Work & Family found 86% of men surveyed said they wouldn’t use paternity leave or parental leave unless they were paid at least 70% of their normal salaries.
But when fathers do take equal leave it benefits everyone.
Research out of Israel shows that the more leave men take to care for children when they’re young, the more the fathers undergo changes in the brain that make them better suited to parenting. And a study by two Columbia University Social Work professors found that fathers who take two or more weeks off after their child is born are more involved in their child’s care nine months later. Simply put, paid paternity leave can help foster better father-child relationships.
Additionally, the more leave fathers take, the more mothers’ incomes increase. In Sweden, where fathers must take at least two months off before the child is 8 years old to receive the government benefits, researchers saw mothers’ incomes increase almost 7% for every month of paternity leave their husbands took.
“Paid parental leave is crucial for both parents, and when corporations like JPMorgan Chase push men to stay at work, they’re effectively pushing women to stay at home,” said Freda Levenson, Legal Director for the ACLU of Ohio, in a press release.
A spokesperson for JPMorgan tells Business Insider that the company has received the complaint and is reviewing it.