JP Morgan employee files sex discrimination charge over parental leave policy

A US-based new father who is an employee at banking organisation JP Morgan has filed a class-action discrimination charge against the organisation, claiming that fathers are discriminated against because they are unable to take paid parental leave on the same terms as mothers.

The charge, which was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Ohio, and law firm Outten and Golden on the employee’s behalf, alleges that JP Morgan’s paid parental leave policy in the US presumptively classifies biological mothers as the primary caregiver to a new child, entitling them to 16 weeks of paid leave. The charge contends that fathers are presumptively allocated as secondary caregivers or the non-primary caregiver, enabling them to take two weeks of paid parental leave.

Derek Rotondo, the employee who filed the charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), wished to be the primary caregiver for his second child and so requested to take 16 weeks of paid parental leave. He was informed by the organisation’s Disability Management Services and HR departments that he was only eligible to take two weeks of paid parental leave as a secondary caregiver.

The charge claims that to qualify as the primary caregiver and receive 16 weeks of paid leave, Rotondo would have to prove that his wife had returned to work before the end of the 16-week period, or if he submitted documentation which showed that his wife was medically incapable of providing care for their newborn. Under these criteria, Rotondo did not qualify as a primary caregiver. He therefore made use of the statutory Family and Medical Leave and accrued paid time off to take paid leave at this time.

Rotondo, an employee at JP Morgan since 2010, claims that biological mothers are automatically designated as the primary caregiver, however they do not have to provide evidence that their partner has returned to work, or documentation that their partner is medically incapable to care for their child. He argues that this is sex discrimination and reinforces sexual stereotypes that women should remain in the home and provide childcare. This, he believes, prevents or discourages fathers at JP Morgan from taking 16 weeks of paid parental leave.

The charge, which Rotondo has requested the EEOC investigate on behalf of past, current and future fathers who have been or might be affected by the policy, alleges that JP Morgan has violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Ohio Fair Employment Practices Act, and other state and local laws regarding sex discrimination. The charge seeks to gain monetary relief for Rotondo and other fathers at JP Morgan, as well as motivate change to the organisation’s parental leave policy.

Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney at ACLU Women’s Rights Project, said: “JP Morgan’s parental leave policy is outdated and discriminated against both mums and dads by reinforcing the stereotype that raising children is women’s work, and that men’s work is to be the breadwinner. JP Morgan needs to make its family leave policy reflect the realities of modern families working in America today.”

Freda Levenson, legal director at the ACLU of Ohio, added: “Paid parental leave is crucial for both parents, and when corporations like JP Morgan Chase push men to stay at work, they’re effectively pushing women to stay at home.”

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Peter Romer-Friedman, civil rights attorney at Outten and Golden, said: “It is long past the time that American [organisations] implement parental leave policies that comply with federal law and treat men and women equally. All parents, regardless of their sex, deserve fair paid leave so they can bond with their babies.”

JP Morgan declined to comment at this time.