Estee Lauder Dads Would Share in $1.1M Leave Bias Settlement

July 16, 2018, 4:22 PM

More than 200 new fathers allegedly denied the same leave rights available to new mothers working for Estee Lauder Cos. would share in a $1.1 million settlement tentatively struck by the U.S. government in a lawsuit against the cosmetics giant.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in an August 2017 lawsuit accused Estee Lauder of providing new fathers with less paid time off for child bonding than it provided to new moms doing the same jobs. The company also denied new dads the same return-to-work benefits it provided to new mothers to ease their transition back into the workplace following the birth of a child, including modified work schedules, the EEOC alleged.

The company denies it broke any laws and didn’t admit to any liability on the EEOC’s charges by agreeing to enter the settlement, according to the proposed one-year consent decree the parties filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania July 12. Judge John R. Padova must still approve the proposed pact.

Estee Lauder amended its paid parental leave policy effective May 1, the proposed decree states. Under it, all new parents will be able to take up to 20 weeks of paid leave to bond with a newborn and six weeks of flexible work arrangements after they return to work following the birth of a child. Leave for child bonding is separate from any short-term disability leave that may be afforded to mothers for pregnancy-related medical conditions, childbirth, or child-birth related medical conditions, the decree says.

Christopher Sullivan, who brought the alleged discrimination to the EEOC’s attention, and as many as 210 other dads will share in the $1.1 million settlement in amounts to be set by the agency. The proposed decree also obligates Estee Lauder to refrain from engaging in any similar misconduct in the future. The company must also provide its disability management team, “people managers,” and human resources professionals with training on federal anti-bias laws and the requirements of the company’s revised paid parental leave policy.

Company Touts Policy Change

“This past year, The Estée Lauder Companies expanded its family-related benefits, including its Paid Parental Leave benefits, to ensure that we foster an inclusive, progressive, and supportive environment for all our employees,” the company said in a July 16 email.

“We have expanded Paid Parental Leave to 20 weeks for all eligible employees irrespective of gender, as well as added or enhanced benefits around adoption, child and elder care, and infant transition support. These are significant steps to ensure our benefits policies are consistent with our company values and are among the most supportive offered by any major company to its employees in support of working families.”

The EEOC declined to comment July 16.

The case is EEOC v. Estee Lauder Cos., E.D. Pa., No. 2:17-cv-03897, notice of settlement 7/12/18.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Terence Hyland at thyland@bloomberglaw.com

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