A Dad Wins Fight To Increase Parental Leave For Men At JPMorgan Chase

May 30, 2019
Originally published on May 30, 2019 10:24 pm

Updated at 11:27 a.m. ET

Two years ago, Derek Rotondo told his employer that he wanted to take 16 weeks of paid leave granted to primary caregivers for his newborn son. He says he was told: "Men, as biological fathers, were presumptively not the primary caregiver." He was only eligible for two weeks' leave.

Rotondo, who had been investigating financial crimes for JPMorgan Chase for seven years, filed a complaint at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging gender discrimination at the bank. Within days, JPMorgan Chase said it would work with Rotondo and granted him the extra leave he wanted.

On Thursday, his case culminated in a class-action settlement with JPMorgan Chase. The bank will pay $5 million to hundreds, possibly thousands, of men who filed for primary caregiver leave and were denied in the last seven years. Rotondo and his attorney said JPMorgan Chase changed its policy; the bank says its policy was always gender-neutral but says it has clarified its language.

"We thank Mr. Rotondo for bringing the matter to our attention," wrote Reid Broda, associate general counsel for JPMorgan Chase.

Rotondo's case is among a small but growing number of class-action suits brought by men arguing that their employers' leave policies discriminate against them. Debates over paid leave have put companies' policies under scrutiny. In 2015, CNN journalist Josh Levs settled a similar complaint with parent company Time Warner, which changed its policy to allow the same leave to all new parents. Last year, Estee Lauder settled a similar case and agreed to pay over $1 million.

Under the law, paid parental leave policies must be equal for both men and women, says attorney Peter Romer-Friedman, who represented Rotondo, along with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Some women get medical leave to recover from a birth, which is separate from parental leave and can often add to a woman's time off. Romer-Friedman says when it comes to parental leave, "the Supreme Court has made very clear that parental leave for caregiving has to be given on the exact same equal terms." He says these policies are supportive of women, too, who stand to benefit if their spouses can provide child care.

Rotondo says that since filing his claim, he has heard from many other dads facing similar problems with their employer policies. He's glad he brought the case, he says, "so that we could get rid of some of these stereotypes where it's the woman's job to have babies and cook and the man gets back to work and pays the bills. That doesn't work for everyone; it's not the century that we live in."

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Banking giant JPMorgan Chase today settled a class action suit regarding its parental leave policy. It involved claims the bank offered more time off to women than men. As NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports, the bank is paying $5 million to fathers who were shortchanged.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: Two years ago, Derek Rotondo's wife was about to give birth to their second son. He told his employer, JPMorgan, he wished to take the maximum 16 weeks of paid leave available under the company's policy. He wanted to bond with his new baby. That's when they told him he didn't qualify.

DEREK ROTONDO: Men, as biological fathers, were presumptively not the primary caregiver.

NOGUCHI: So Rotondo only got two weeks off. Soon after, Rotondo, a financial crimes investigator, filed a complaint alleging gender discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The bank quickly offered him the leave he requested. Settling the case took a bit longer. Rotondo and his attorneys say the policy changed.

JPMorgan disputes this. It says its policy has always been gender-neutral but that it clarified that language. It will also pay $5 million to hundreds or possibly thousands of men who were denied leave over a seven-year span. Rotondo says he's happy he brought the case.

ROTONDO: So that we can get rid of some of these stereotypes where it's the woman's job to have babies and cook and man's to get back to work and pay the bills. That doesn't work for everyone. It's not the century that we live in.

NOGUCHI: Parental leave is not required under federal law, only 40% of employers offer it. But support is rapidly shifting - socially, politically and among employers. High-profile dads from former NBA star Dwyane Wade to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg have been outspoken about taking paternity leave.

Rotondo's is the latest of several similar actions brought by fathers in recent years. Other cases prompted Estee Lauder and Time Warner to change their policies to give men an equal amount of time off. Peter Romer-Friedman is an attorney who represented Rotondo along with the American Civil Liberties Union.

PETER ROMER-FRIEDMAN: The Supreme Court has made very clear that parental leave for caregiving has to be given on the exact same equal term.

NOGUCHI: Derek Rotondo says the extra time helped create a strong bond with his son, and he learned new skills.

ROTONDO: I can change a diaper while a kid is standing up in under 30 seconds.

NOGUCHI: The value of that is something any parent can appreciate. Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.