Dad Files Parental Leave Discrimination Lawsuit Against J.P. Morgan Chase

Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy
Contributing Writer
Dads don’t get equal treatment when it comes to parental leave. (Photo: Getty Images)

Derek Rotondo has been a fraud investigator with J.P. Morgan Chase since 2010. But when he first became a father in 2015, he was shocked to learn that the financial behemoth had different paid family leave policies for men and women. Now those differences have led him to join with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to file a discrimination lawsuit against his employer.

In his complaint, Rotondo, 32, alleges that following the births of his children — he and his wife had a second son this month — he has been limited in the amount of paid parental leave he has been eligible for solely because of his sex.

The ACLU of Ohio and the employment law firm of Outten & Golden LLP have also joined the father’s lawsuit.

“Equality in general is important — that’s an easy one,” Rotondo, of Columbus, Ohio, tells Yahoo Beauty. “And for me, specifically, the first couple of weeks and months are really important for that bonding time with a new baby. That time is irreplaceable. It shouldn’t be only women who are allowed to stay home and take care of their babies. Dads can do it too, and should be able to stay home if they want. It’s their choice and not something an employer should dictate.”

J.P. Morgan Chase did not immediately respond to Yahoo Beauty’s request for comment. According to other reports, though, the company has only stated that it has received the complaint and is reviewing it.

When Rotondo’s first son was born in 2015, the company provided fathers with just one week of paid parental leave; mothers were were given slightly more time. At that time, Rotondo took his week of paid leave, plus an additional week off using paid days he had accrued.

J.P. Morgan Chase’s current paid parental leave policy, according to the suit, allows 16 weeks of paid parental leave for primary caregivers and two weeks of paid parental leave for nonprimary caregivers. The hitch, however, is that the company also presumes that biological mothers are the primary caregivers; fathers can be considered the primary caregiver only if their spouses are returning to the workforce or have been deemed medically incapable of caring for their child. Women, however, are awarded primary status by default at the company.

This May 15, in anticipation of his second child’s birth, Rotondo contacted J.P. Morgan Chase’s disability management services and requested that the 16 weeks of paid parental leave be given to him as the primary caregiver. But because Rotondo’s wife is a schoolteacher, she was home for the summer break, and he was unable to prove she had already gone back to work. And because she had had a normal, healthy delivery the first time, he was unable to prove that she would be incapable of caring for their new baby herself.

Rotondo’s request was denied.

“If I were a female employee of [J.P. Morgan Chase], I would be presumptively eligible to receive 16 weeks of paid parental leave automatically as a primary caregiver regardless of whether my spouse had returned to work or was medically capable of providing care for our child,” he says in his complaint.

Because only men are required to meet these criteria to qualify as a child’s primary caregiver for the more generous paid family leave, Rotondo is claiming sex-based discrimination under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, as well as Ohio’s Fair Employment Practices Act.

Rotondo is not alone in his experience, unfortunately. According to a report just released by the nonprofit Paid Leave for the United States (PL+US), the majority of top companies in the U.S. — including CVS, Staples, Amazon, and Starbucks — give little or no paid parental leave to dads (and adoptive parents). And if they give any leave at all, it’s usually much less than what is provided for birth mothers.

“Modern companies understand that all parents need equal time to bond with their new children, and parental leave policies must reflect that,” PL+US executive director Katie Bethell said in a statement. “Leave for the U.S. Companies like JP Morgan and Starbucks that have discriminatory parental leave policies sends a strong signal that executives at those companies believe parenting should primarily be a woman’s job.”

A policy brief issued by the Obama administration’s Labor Department last year found that while nine out of 10 fathers in the U.S. take some time off work for the birth of a child, 70 percent are allotted paid time off of 10 days or less. Furthermore, 88 percent of Americans workers across the board have no access to paid leave at all, and fathers regularly are offered less paid parental leave than mothers.

Peter Romer-Friedman, a civil rights attorney with Outten & Golden, tells Yahoo Beauty that the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that while it is appropriate to have a disparity in paid leave provided to men and women if it reflects recovery time for birth mothers — generally thought to be six weeks for vaginal births — any time beyond it that is different is unlawful, and reflects a sex stereotype that violates Title VII.

“We have a federal law that provides millions of workers with unpaid leave, but studies show that most workers can’t afford to utilize FMLA because they don’t receive any pay,” Romer-Friedman emphasizes. “Most ordinary workers and families can’t afford to go eight, 12 weeks without pay. Paid family leave gives workers the right to use their federal right to take leave, bond with their children, and care for their loved ones. It’s not just a benefit people like and want, but a benefit people need.”

As for Rotondo, he says, “I don’t think that this is a novel idea to most people. I think every man out there would like to see a world in which families can decide for themselves how things are going to be. There are so many different kinds of families that all have different situations.”

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