In an opinion piece published in the Sept. 10 edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Natalie Pedersen, PhD, assistant professor of legal studies in Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business, wrote about the struggles companies face in their attempt to balance the family-leave needs of new mothers and fathers.
Estee Lauder was the most recent company to make headlines for its parental leave policies when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced a class-action lawsuit against the company claiming its leave policy violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Both laws prohibit discrimination based on sex in pay and benefits.
While employees in the United States aren’t entitled to any kind of paid parental leave under federal law, under the Family and Medical Leave Act, certain employees must be given 12 weeks of unpaid leave upon the birth or adoption of a child. However, according to Pedersen, in drafting paid leave policies, employers are increasingly running afoul of what the law requires of them in terms of equality in the workplace.
Pedersen encourages companies to offer paid leave so that new mothers and fathers can afford to take the time off and bond with newborns — something that has been proven to have many benefits for babies.
Additionally, she wrote, paid leave is beneficial for employers because it tends to increase employee commitment to the company once they return from leave, as well as increasing employee productivity since employees don’t feel that they have to choose between work and family in the early stages of parenthood.
Pedersen does caution that companies should reevaluate their policies to be sure they stay within the confines of the law.
“Most importantly, employers need to be sure they are treating workers equally,” she wrote. “This does not mean that they have to give equal periods of paid leave to birth mothers and fathers. The law actually does not require that.
Because birth mothers are recovering from the medical consequences of pregnancy, employers are allowed, under the law, to offer birth mothers paid time off to recover from pregnancy without offering such similar time to fathers. According to EEOC Guidelines on Parental Leave, what employers cannot do is offer parental leave time not associated with medical recovery (say, for bonding with the child) on an unequal basis to mothers and fathers.”
The full opinion piece is available on The Philadelphia Inquirer’s website.
Media interested in interviewing Pedersen, should contact Niki Gianakaris, director of media relations at Drexel, at 215-895-6741 or firstname.lastname@example.org.