Investment banking organisation JPMorgan Chase is to pay a $5 million (£3.9 million) settlement in a class action parental leave case involving fathers who claim they were denied the opportunity to take additional paid parental leave as primary caregivers.
The proposed settlement, which has been arranged with The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio and law firm Outten and Golden, relates to a class action discrimination lawsuit filed by fraud investigator Derek Rotondo in June 2017 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Rotondo argued that the organisation discriminates against men by assuming that women will be the default primary caregiver, and therefore entitled to take up to 16 weeks of paid parental leave under JPMorgan Chase’s policy. Men, on the other hand, are automatically designated as the non-primary caregiver, receiving only two weeks of paid parental leave.
Rotondo, who began working at JPMorgan Chase in 2010, sought to take 14 weeks of primary caregiver parental leave after the birth of his son, but was denied by the firm’s HR department. Rotondo was informed that he was only entitled to two weeks of paid parental leave unless he could prove his partner was incapacitated or had returned to work. Rotondo’s wife works as a teacher and, at this time, was on leave over the summer holidays.
Rotondo states that JPMorgan Chase’s parental leave policy violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Ohio Fair Employment Practices Act, as well as other state and local laws that prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on sex or sex-based stereotypes.
The proposed class action settlement, announced and filed on 30 May 2019, confirms that JPMorgan Chase will continue to operate its current gender-neutral parental leave policy, which was clarified in December 2017. The firm will also train those administering the policy on its application and create a fund to pay $5 million to fathers who believe they were unlawfully denied access to paid parental leave on the same terms as mothers between 2011 and 2017; the fund will cover legal fees and administrative costs too.
Before the settlement can go into effect, the district court will need to provide notice to class members about their rights, allow them to file claims forms in order to receive compensation and hold a hearing to determine whether the settlement is fair. JPMorgan Chase is not admitting liability in the settlement.
Reid Broda, associate general counsel at JPMorgan Chase, said: “We are pleased to have reached an agreement in this matter and look forward to more effectively communicating the policy so that all [male and female] employees are aware of their benefits. We thank Mr Rotondo for bringing the matter to our attention.”
Peter Romer-Friedman, civil rights attorney at Outten and Golden, added: “All parents, regardless of their sex, deserve fair paid leave. Even as some [organisations] like [JPMorgan Chase] expand the amount of paid leave to their employees, it is important for all to remember that these policies must follow our historic civil rights laws. We hope that other fathers like Derek Rotondo will take a stand for gender equality at their [organisations]. Derek’s courageous action in this case will benefit thousands of families.”
Freda Levenson, legal director at ACLU of Ohio, said: “Paid parental leave is crucial for all parents, and it should be up to families, not employers, what their caregiving arrangements will look like. In order for women to compete on an even playing field at work, we need to ensure that men can play an active role at home.”