Employers should be aware that federal law protects certain absences such as those covered by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). When designing an attendance policy, employers have to take pains to ensure they do not accidentally penalize employers for these kinds of absences. A common reason individuals take leave under FMLA is after the birth of a child. However, even if an attendance policy accounts for this situation, it is not always free of discrimination.
Estée Lauder in Hot Water Over Discriminatory Attendance Policy
Maternity leave is not a new concept, and the related absences fall squarely under FMLA. FMLA requires businesses to allow employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth of a child. Some companies take this a step further and offer paid leave. Estée Lauder is one such company, but their attendance policy has landed them in court.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is suing the cosmetics giant for offering men less paid parental leave than they do for women. The crux of the suit centers on sex discrimination. Estée Lauder offers women six weeks of paid leave to bond with their new baby while only offering men two. In addition, Estée Lauder offers new mothers flexible return-to-work options after the six-week period ends but does not provide such benefit to new fathers. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 prohibits discrimination in pay or benefits based on sex. If the company offers women paid leave, they must offer men the same amount of paid leave as well. Unfortunately, Estée Lauder’s parental leave program does not comply with the law.
Review Attendance Policies Often
Estée Lauder’s lawsuit should serve as a cautionary tale for other businesses. Companies should review their attendance policies periodically to ensure they are not discriminatory. Actec can help businesses review their absence management policies and implement absence reporting programs free from discrimination. To learn more about the fine points of absence management, contact us.