Estée Lauder has settled the lawsuit filed against it last August by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), which accused it of discriminating against men by giving them less paid parental leave than women. The New York-based cosmetics giant – which owns Bobbi Brown, La Mer, and MAC, and holds licenses for Tom Ford, Tory Burch, and Michael Kors fragrances and brought in $11.8 billion in revenue for 2017 – has agreed to pay a sum of $1.1 million to settle the lawsuit that has been pending in federal court in Pennsylvania.
According to the EEOC’s suit, Estée Lauder gives its female employees six weeks of paid leave for “child bonding” purposes, while new fathers receive two weeks. Additionally, the EEOC – a federal agency that administers and enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination – states in its complaint that female employees were given "more flexible arrangements when they returned to work" than their male counterparts. This, according to the EEOC, amount to yet another violation of federal law, which prohibits sex bias in the workplace. Anti-sex discrimination laws also require that men and women be paid equally for equal work.
The EEOC was prompted to take legal action – the commission’s first to challenge a company’s parental leave policy – after Christopher Sullivan, a stock worker at an Estée Lauder retail store in Maryland filed an EEOC complaint. The EEOC alleged that Mr. Sullivan requested six weeks of paid leave in 2015 when his child was born, but Estée Lauder allegedly granted him only two weeks.
In addition to a monetary damages of backpay and compensatory damages for Mr. Sullivan, as well as any other men employed by any/all of Estée Lauder's brands that have been privy to its allegedly discriminatory policies, EEOC wanted a judge to order the company to immediately change its policy to equally affect both male and female employees. According to the settlement, Estée has already adjusted its parental leave policy to ensure that new fathers have the same amount of paid time off as women.
* The case is EEOC v. Estee Lauder Companies Inc, 2:17-cv-03897, (E.D. PA).