According to a recent survey presented at FIT in New York, the beauty industry is 72% more likely than the general population to rank company culture as the top reason for employment. Culture matters, in employee acquisition and retention, as well as the law. This week, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that The Estée Lauder Companies (Estée Lauder) will pay $1.1 million and provide “other relief” to resolve a lawsuit charging sex discrimination against male employees.
The suit alleged that a class of 210 male employees were discriminated against when Estée Lauder provided them—all new fathers—less paid leave to bond with a newborn, or with a newly adopted or fostered child, than it did new mothers. (Parental leave is separate from medical leave for childbirth and related issues.)
Additionally, the EEOC alleged that the company unlawfully denied fathers the same return-to-work benefits offered to new mothers, including temporary modified work schedules, that ease the transition back into the work force and the exhaustion of paid leave.
This conduct violates the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to the EEOC.
The court entered a consent decree resolving the case July 17, 2018; under this decree, the company will pay a total of $1.1 million to the class of male employees who received two weeks of paid leave compared to the six offered to new mothers after their medical leave had ended.
Estée Lauder will also be required to administer paternal leave and related return-to-work benefits in such a way that ensures equal benefits for all employees utilizing sex-neutral criteria, requirements and processes. This requirement has been met by the company’s recent implementation of a revised parental leave policy which provides all eligible employees the same 20 weeks of paid leave for child bonding, as well as six-week flexibility period upon their return to work. For biological mothers, the benefits will begin after medical leave occasioned by childbirth.
Benefits will apply retroactively to all employees who experienced a qualifying event, such as childbirth, adoption or foster placement, since Jan. 1, 2018. Additionally, Estée Lauder will provide training n unlawful sex discrimination, which will be monitored by the EEOC.
“Parental leave policies should not reflect presumptions or stereotypes about gender roles,” said Thomas Rethage, Philadelphia District Office senior trial attorney. “When it comes to paid leave for bonding with a new child or flexibility in returning to work from that leave, mothers and fathers should be treated equally. We commend Estée Lauder for working cooperatively with the EEOC on a resolution that compensates male employees who received less paid child-bonding leave as new fathers, and for revising its policy to provide all new parents with 20 weeks of paid parental leave going forward.”