An Ohio father has sued J.P. Morgan Chase for discrimination after the company informed him he could not be considered to receive the 16 weeks of paid parental it gives to “primary caregivers.” New dad Derek Rotando has taken the company to task with the help of the Ohio chapter of the ACLU, which suggests the company’s leave policy violates the 1964 Civil Rights Act and a handful of state anti-discrimination laws.
Rotando, employed by J.P. Morgan for the last seven years, approached the company’s human resources department to request leave prior to his son’s birth in early June. The company has a bifurcated and uneven policy that provides different amounts of leave based on who is the primary and secondary caregivers. While primary caregivers receive a full four months of leave, secondary caregivers receive just two weeks. Rotando asked that he be considered the primary caregiver.
According to his story, the company responded to Rotando’s request by telling him that birth mothers were the only parents automatically considered primary caregivers. In order for him to earn that distinction, they explained, he would have to prove that his partner would be back at work full time (impossible for her as an educator on summer break) or that she was unable to provide any care for medical reasons.
J.P. Morgan is just one of seven large companies that has a policy that restricts leave to dads, according to a report by Paid Leave for the United States (PL+US). The PL+US report singles out J.P. Morgan for the “primary caregiver” caveat in its policy, calling it “an outdated distinction for families where parenting responsibility is shared.” Research suggests that parenting responsibilities are increasingly shared by partner. The report cites a Boston College research suggesting a majority of men feel they should share parenting responsibilities equally.
That said, men face significant cultural barriers in being considered equal parents in the eyes of employers. In one lawsuit brought by a Maryland state trooper, the dad was told he could not be considered a primary caregiver due to the fact he couldn’t breastfeed. The court eventually ruled in his favor.
The evidence of the importance of fathers to a baby’s first few months of life is growing overwhelming. A father who is present for a baby is linked to positive outcomes in nearly all areas of a child’s life from the social to the cognitive.
In a blog post for the ACLU, Rotando puts a fine point on it. “In modern America, fathers want to play a significant role in caring for their children,” he writes. “Working families like mine want corporate policies that strike a fair balance between work and family.”
And it appears they’ll sue for discrimination until those policies change.