Estee Lauder subject to sex discrimination lawsuit over parental leave benefit


Global cosmetics and makeup organisation Estee Lauder is subject to a lawsuit that alleges male employees are discriminated against under the organisation’s paid parental leave programme.

The lawsuit, which has been brought by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), claims that Estee Lauder has broken federal law with the implementation and administration of its paid parental leave programme, by providing male employees who are new fathers with lesser benefits than female employees who are new mothers.

The parental leave programme, which was introduced in 2013 to enable new parents time away from work to bond with their baby, allows eligible employees who are new mothers to take six-weeks of paid leave for child bonding. This is in addition to paid leave already in place to help biological mothers recover from childbirth. Furthermore, new mothers at Estee Lauder are also offered flexible return-to-work benefits after child bonding leave has finished. In comparison, male employees who are new fathers are provided with two weeks of paid leave to bond with their child, and the same flexible return-to-work benefits are not available.

The case originally arose when a Maryland-based male employee requested and was refused six weeks of child bonding leave after the birth of his child, despite this being what new mothers at the organisation would automatically receive. The employee in question was instead permitted to take two weeks of paid leave to bond with his newborn. The EEOC’s Washington Field Office investigated the employee’s subsequent discrimination charge, and found that it violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Equal Pay Act of 1963. These acts prohibit discrimination in pay or benefits based on sex.

The EEOC filed a lawsuit against Estee Lauder in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, after initially attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The lawsuit will seek back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief for affected male employees who were denied equal parental leave benefits because of their sex.

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Mindy Weinstein, acting director at the EEOC Washington Field Office, said: “It is wonderful when employers provide paid parental leave and flexible work arrangements, but federal law requires equal pay, including benefits, for equal work, and that applies to men as well as women.”

Estee Lauder was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.