Derek Rotondo wanted to stay home with his children after they were born, so he asked his employer, JP Morgan Chase, for permission to take 14 weeks of parental leave after his son was born. However, the company’s human resources department allegedly told him that fathers were only eligible for two paid weeks. The full 16 weeks of paid parental leave were only available for women, as women are considered primary caregivers, Rotondo alleged.
So Rotondo filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. That encouraged JPMorgan Chase to give him the full 16 weeks of leave and clarify that its parental leave policy was gender neutral.
Rotondo then teamed up with other fathers and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to ensure that fathers get equal treatment from their employers. On Thursday, JPMorgan Chase agreed to pay $5 million to hundreds of men who claimed they weren’t given the same paid leave as women when they became parents, settling the proposed class-action suit.
“I love my children, and all I wanted was to spend time with them when they were born,” Rotondo said in a statement from the ACLU. “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.”
This is the biggest settlement ever recorded in a U.S. parental leave discrimination case, Rotondo’s lawyers said. But it’s not the first time that equitable parental leave has headed to the courts. Last year, Estee Lauder agreed to pay over $1 million to settle a similar suit, and Time Warner settled a similar complaint in 2015, filed by a CNN journalist leading the company to change its policy so that all new parents have the same leave.
These settlements should put employers on notice that parental leave doesn’t just apply to moms. As more companies adopt gender-neutral policies, society will see a net benefit for both men and women: Experts believe that more men taking parental leave will help even the playing field and close the gender pay gap.