The mainstay of litigation involving women in the 1980’s and 90’s often revolved around employment discrimination linked to the perception of women being a caregiver first, a committed employee second. For decades, women who believed their employers had punished them with lower wages and missed promotions after they had become mothers have been filing gender discrimination complaints and bringing lawsuits. Now, in a sign of the times, more men are also standing up to employers that force them, implicitly or otherwise, to choose between work and family.
Recently, CNN and Turner Broadcasting settled an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charge made by a former male CNN correspondent who claimed that the company’s paid parental leave policy discriminated against biological fathers. During the father’s employment, the company offered mothers 10 weeks of paid leave compared to a 2 week period for fathers. When the father asked for comparable time off following the birth of his child, the company refused, prompting the dad to act.
Other cases are being brought by fathers against their employers over conflicts relating to family responsibilities. In 2013, a male attorney was fired after taking leave covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act. In his complaint, the employee said the employer exhibited a ‘macho’ culture that encouraged the stereotype of men ceding family responsibilities to women. He felt his decision to take leave resulted in his eventual termination. During the same year, an air traffic controller settled with his company following his claim that his employer had engaged in sex discrimination when it denied him several days of child care leave that it readily granted mothers.
Priorities are changing for fathers. Many are working less and spending more time with their children compared to recent years. A Pew Research study reflects a reduction of the hours dad puts in at the office – 37 hour work weeks are more typical, down from 42. With the growing number of men spending more time with family, some employers are responding negatively and may face legal action. As the cases stack up and the settlements pour in, more and more men have been encouraged to challenge their employers for these discriminatory practices.
Retaliation, denial of benefits such as raises and promotions, a hostile work environment and even wrongful termination may occur as a result of workplace discrimination. If you or a family member has faced employment discrimination based on sex, gender, age, race, religion or other, contact the employment Law Offices of Stoltze & Updegraff PLC for help.
Source: New York Times, “Attitudes Shift on Paid Leave: Dads Sue, Too”, by Noam Scheiber, September 15, 2015.