EEOC Settles with Estée Lauder on Paternity Leave Discrimination Case

On July 17, 2018, the EEOC issued a press release announcing a settlement agreement resolving a lawsuit it filed against Estée Lauder. The company is a manufacturer and marketer of skin care, makeup, fragrance and hair care products. As a result of the settlement, Estée Lauder will pay $1,100,000 and provide other relief to resolve the lawsuit alleging sex discrimination against male employees.

As background, the EEOC alleged that Estée Lauder discriminated against a class of 210 male employees. Specifically, the lawsuit claims Estée Lauder provided new fathers two weeks paid leave to bond with a newborn, or with a newly adopted or fostered child, while it provided six weeks to new mothers. The parental leave at issue was separate from medical leave received by mothers for childbirth and related issues. The EEOC also alleged that the company unlawfully denied new fathers return-to-work benefits provided to new mothers, such as temporary modified work schedules, to ease the transition to work after the arrival of a new child and exhaustion of paid parental leave.

In addition to the money paid pursuant to the settlement, the agreement requires Estée Lauder to administer parental leave and related return-to-work benefits in a manner that ensures equal benefits for male and female employees and utilizes sex-neutral criteria, requirements and processes. Estée Lauder has already taken steps to address this requirement by implementing a revised parental leave policy that provides all eligible employees, regardless of gender or caregiver status, the same 20 weeks of paid leave for child bonding and the same six-week flexibility period upon returning to work. For biological mothers, these parental paid leave benefits begin after any period of medical leave received by mothers for childbirth and related issues. The benefits apply retroactively to all employees who experienced a qualifying event (birth, adoption or foster placement) since Jan. 1, 2018. Finally, the settlement also requires that Estée Lauder provide training on unlawful sex discrimination and allow monitoring by the EEOC.

In summary, this lawsuit and settlement agreement provides employers with a great example of conduct that violates the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Ultimately, this settlement demonstrates that employers must provide equal opportunities for time off to new dads and new moms for bonding with a new child, which is what federal law requires. Specifically, leave benefits related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions can be limited to women affected by those conditions. However, parental leave must be provided to similarly situated men and women on the same terms. The EEOC commended Estée Lauder for working cooperatively on a resolution that compensates male employees who received less paid leave for child-bonding as new fathers and for revising its parental leave policy.

EEOC Press Release »