The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has filed suit against Estee Lauder, accusing the cosmetics giant of discriminating against men by giving them less paid parental leave than women. According to the EEOC’s suit, which was filed in federal court in Philadelphia, the cosmetics company – which also owns Bobbi Brown, La Mer, and MAC, and holds lincenses for Tom Ford, Tory Burch, and Michael Kors fragrances – gave women six weeks of paid leave for “child bonding” purposes, while new fathers received 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.
Mindy Weinstein, the acting director of the EEOC’s Washington field office, told Reuters in a statement on Wednesday that it was “wonderful” for companies to provide paid parental leave and flexible work arrangements, “But federal law requires equal pay for equal work, and that applies to men as well as women.”
The EEOC states in its suit that it 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 Estee Lauder retail store in Maryland filed an EEOC complaint. According to the EEOC, Mr. Sullivan requested six weeks of paid leave in 2015 when his child was born. Estee Lauder allegedly granted him only two weeks.
Per Reuters, “In 2013 the company adopted a policy giving six weeks of leave to new mothers and ‘primary caregivers’ and two weeks to ‘secondary caregivers.’ Sullivan told the company that he would be the primary caregiver to his child, but according to the lawsuit the company said that designation only applied in ‘surrogacy situations.’”
The EEOC wants a judge to order the company to immediately change its policy to equally affect both male and female employees. It is also seeking backpay and compensatory damages for Mr. Sullivan, as well as any other men – employed by any/all of Estee Lauder’s brands – that have been privy to its allegedly discriminatory policies.
A spokeswoman for New York City-based Estee Lauder, said the company does not comment on pending litigation.
* The case is EEOC v. Estee Lauder Companies Inc, 2:17-cv-03897, (E.D. PA).