WASHINGTON - Estée Lauder, one of the world's leading manufacturers and marketers of skin care, makeup, fragrance and hair care products, will pay $1,100,000 and provide other relief to resolve a lawsuit charging sex discrimination against male employees, which was filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
The EEOC alleged that Estée Lauder discriminated against a class of 210 male employees. The suit claims Estée Lauder provided them, as new fathers, less paid leave to bond with a newborn, or with a newly adopted or fostered child, than it provided 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.
Such alleged conduct violates the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Civil Action No. 2:17-cv-03897-JP on Aug. 30, 2017 after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
On July 17, 2018, the court entered a consent decree resolving the case. Under the decree, Estée Lauder will pay a total of $1,100,000 to the class of male employees who, under Estée Lauder's parental leave policy, received two weeks of paid parental leave as compared to the six weeks of paid leave for child-bonding received by new mothers after their medical leave ended.
The decree also 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. This requirement has been met by Estée Lauder's recent implementation of 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 occasioned by childbirth. The benefits apply retroactively to all employees who experienced a qualifying event (e.g. birth, adoption, foster placement) since Jan. 1, 2018. The decree also requires that Estée Lauder provide training on unlawful sex discrimination and allow monitoring by the EEOC.
"This settlement ensures that Estée Lauder will provide equal opportunities for time off to new dads and new moms, which is what the law requires, and what makes sense for families," said Mindy E. Weinstein, acting director of the EEOC's Washington Field Office.
Philadelphia District Office Senior Trial Attorney Thomas Rethage added, "Parental leave policies should not reflect presumptions or stereotypes about gender roles. 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."
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.