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J.P. Morgan Employee: Company’s Parental Leave Policy ‘Like Something out of the 1950s’

Nicole Knight

"J.P. Morgan’s parental leave policy is outdated and discriminates against both moms and dads by reinforcing the stereotype that raising children is women’s work, and that men’s work is to be the breadwinner."

J.P. Morgan Chase is breaking state and federal laws by granting mothers more generous paid parental leave benefits than fathers, according to a discrimination charge filed Thursday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the banking giant.

Attorneys filed the proposed class action charge on behalf of Derek Rotondo, a J.P. Morgan investigator and father of two. Rotondo, who wanted to care for his newborn, found out about J.P. Morgan’s unequal treatment of mothers and fathers when he inquired about taking 16 weeks of paid parental leave, according to the filing.

A company representative told Rotondo that J.P. Morgan “presumptively considers mothers to be primary caregivers,” according to the charge. Under J.P. Morgan policies, fathers are eligible for two weeks of paid parental leave, while mothers are eligible for 16 weeks of paid parental leave.

“It was like something out of the 1950s,” Rotondo said in a statement. “Just because I’m a father, not a mother, it shouldn’t prevent me from being the primary caregiver for my baby.”

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Rotondo said a human resources representative rejected his request for 16 weeks of paid parental leave in May, shortly before his wife was due to deliver their second child. To be considered a primary caregiver and qualify for 16 weeks of leave, Rotondo was told he’d need to demonstrate his wife was “medically incapable” of caring for their newborn, or prove she had returned to work.

The filing accuses J.P. Morgan of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other laws that bar employers from discriminating on the basis of sex or gender stereotypes.

“J.P. Morgan’s parental leave policy is outdated and discriminates against both moms and dads by reinforcing the stereotype that raising children is women’s work, and that men’s work is to be the breadwinner,” Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, said in a statement.

The ACLU prevailed in a similar case brought in 1999 on behalf of a Maryland state trooper. A jury awarded Kevin Knussman $375,000 after he was denied parental leave to care for his newborn daughter because of his gender.

That case was the first sex discrimination verdict under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, according to the ACLU.

“The Fourth Circuit held that this type of policy is discriminatory and violated the Equal Protection clause because it reinforced impermissible gender stereotypes,” Galen said of the Knussman case.

Galen said the same principles apply to the J.P. Morgan charge.

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