Legal

Is the Denial of Paid Paternity Leave Discriminatory?

By Jon Hyman

Nov. 6, 2013

ABCNews.com is reporting that CNN reporter Josh Levs has filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge against Time Warner challenging its family leave policy as discriminating based on sex.

Levs, whose wife just gave birth to their third child, claims that his employer treats biological fathers differently. He claims that Time Warner’s policy permits 10 weeks of paid leave to women who give birth to children, or male and female parents following adoption or surrogacy. Biological fathers, on the other hand, are limited to two weeks of paid leave. This treatment, Levs says, discriminates against him as a man.

On his Tumblr, Levs makes a compelling argument for the unfairness of Time Warner’s policy:

If I were a woman, but other elements of my situation were the same — I was still with the same woman (so that would be a same-sex relationship), and she gave birth to our child, legally I would have to adopt in order to be co-parent. I would then have the option of 10 weeks off, paid.

Or how about this: If I gave my child up for adoption, and some other guy at Time Warner adopted her, he would get 10 weeks off, paid, to take care of her. I, however, her biological father, can’t.

The visceral reaction to a story such as Levs’s is to say, “Time Warner is treating men and women differently; therefore, it’s sex discrimination. Case closed.” The question, however, isn’t whether the policy is fair, but whether it’s legal.

There is one key difference between women and men when they welcome a new-born child. Women give birth; men don’t. A women is not medically ready to return to work the day following childbirth; a man is. Indeed, current medical guidelines suggest that women take six weeks off from work following a vaginal delivery, and eight following a C-section. Adoptions also provide different challenges to a couple, including adjusting to new family member without the buffer of a nine-month pregnancy. As Time Warner points out, its policy provides 10 weeks of paid leave, more generous than the medical standards and the FMLA’s guarantee of unpaid leave.

Yes, Time Warner’s policy can lead to absurd results in extreme situations, as Levs points out. But, before we jump the gun and lynch the company from the sex-discrimination gallows, we need to consider that there might be an explanation that justifies its policy other than discrimination.

Written by Jon Hyman, a partner in the Labor & Employment group of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz. For more information, contact Hyman at (216) 736-7226 or jth@kjk.com. You can also follow Hyman on Twitter at @jonhyman.

Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at JHyman@Wickenslaw.com.

About Workforce.com

blog workforce

We build robust scheduling & attendance software for businesses with 500+ frontline workers. With custom BI reporting and demand-driven scheduling, we help our customers reduce labor spend and increase profitability across their business. It's as simple as that.

Book a call
See the software

Related Articles

workforce blog

Compliance

Minimum Wage by State in 2022 – All You Need to Know

Summary The federal minimum wage rate is $7.25, but the rate is higher in 30 states, along with Washing...

federal law, minimum wage, pay rates, state law, wage law compliance

workforce blog

Legal

California’s push for a 32-hour workweek explained, and how to prepare

Summary: California is considering a 32-hour workweek bill for businesses with over 500 staff 4 day wee...

32 hour workweek, 4 day workweek, california, legislature, overtime

workforce blog

Legal

A business owner’s guide to restaurant tipping law

Business owners in the restaurant industry are in a unique position when it comes to employee tips. As ...

restaurants, tip laws, tipping