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JPMorgan Chase settles class action suit, will give equal parental leave to mothers and fathers

Bank will pay $5 million to fathers who were denied primary caregiver leave

JPMorgan Chase already has a gender-neutral parental leave policy, gives primary caregivers 16 weeks of paid parental leave, and gives non-primary caregivers six weeks of paid parental leave.

But if a proposed class-action settlement goes through, fathers who are JPMorgan Chase employees will soon also be able to claim primary caregiver status and take 16 weeks of paid parental leave.

The settlement stems from a class-action lawsuit filed after a Chase employee, Derek Rotondo, tried to claim primary caregiver status when his son was born but was allegedly told by Chase’s H.R. department that mothers were presumptively considered to be primary caregivers, and therefore he was ineligible for the full 16 weeks of paid parental leave because fathers were only eligible for two weeks of paid parental leave unless they could show that their spouses or partners were incapacitated or had returned to work.

Last year, Chase increased its non-primary caregiver parental leave to six weeks instead of the two it had been previously.

After allegedly being told that the full parental leave may not apply to him, Rotondo filed a charge in June 2017 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, stating that Chase’s policies and practices constituted sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act and state law.

According to the class-action suit, shortly after Rotondo filed the claim with the EEOC, Chase granted Rotondo the full 16 weeks of caregiver leave, and then in December 2017, clarified its policy to ensure equal access to all those seeking to serve as the primary caregiver to their new child, regardless of gender.

Nonetheless, a class-action lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio, and the law firm of Outten & Golden on behalf of male Chase employees who allege they were unlawfully denied access to paid parental leave on the same terms as mothers from 2011 through 2017.

The parties reached a proposed settlement, which was filed Thursday in Ohio federal court.

Under the terms of the settlement, Chase will continue to maintain its current gender-neutral parental leave policy, which was clarified following Rotondo’s discrimination claim, and train the employees charged with administering that policy on ensuring that it is applied in a gender-neutral manner.

Additionally, Chase will pay $5 million to fathers who claim they were denied the opportunity to take additional paid parental leave as primary caregivers.

According to the ACLU, the settlement is the first class-action lawsuit to settle sex discrimination claims for a class of fathers who claim they were denied the opportunity to receive equal paid parental leave given to mothers.

“I love my children, and all I wanted was to spend time with them when they were born,” Rotondo said in a statement. “I’m proud that since I filed my charge, Chase has clarified its policy to ensure that both male and female employees who wish to be the primary parental caregiver have equal access to those benefits.”

The lawsuit and the ACLU both acknowledged the “generosity” of Chase’s parental leave policies, but want those policies applied equally to mothers and fathers, which will happen if the settlement is approved.

“While sixteen weeks of parental leave is quite generous, and we wish more companies would follow Chase’s lead, caregiving leave must also be offered on an equal basis to men and women,” said Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project. “Unfortunately, the gender stereotype that raising children is a woman’s job is still prevalent, and is reflected in far too many corporate policies. We are pleased that Chase is committed to ensuring that its parental leave system meets the needs of today’s families.”

Chase did not admit liability in the settlement, but Reid Broda, JPMorgan Chase associate general counsel, said that the bank appreciates Rotondo bringing the issue to light.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement in this matter and look forward to more effectively communicating the policy so that all men and women employees are aware of their benefits,” Broda said. “We thank Mr. Rotondo for bringing the matter to our attention.”

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