Working fathers have same rights for parental leave

Tim Grant
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh — Working fathers scored a victory last year for achieving equal status in parental leave polices when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decided men should be entitled to the same rights as women in the workplace who choose to take time off in order to bond with a newborn or newly adopted child.

The EEOC made history in July when it issued guidance stating that companies must provide equal bonding leave for male and female employees.

“There is a viewpoint that still exists in some workplaces that men should stay at work,” said Tom Spiggle, author of “You’re Pregnant? You’re Fired!: Mothers, Fathers and Other Caregivers in the Workplace.” In that line of thinking, he said, “If someone is going to stay at home with the children, it should be the wife.

“There have been some cases where a man has taken family medical leave to be with a newborn child and was penalized later in the workplace for taking that leave,” said Spiggle, an Arlington, Va.-based lawyer who represents employees in workplace discrimination cases. “That is illegal under the Family Medical Leave Act.”

The issue has prompted several lawsuits in recent years brought by new fathers against their employers.

CNN and Turner Broadcasting last year settled an EEOC charge with a former CNN correspondent who claimed the company’s paid parental leave policy discriminated against biological fathers. In 2013, an air traffic controller settled a complaint against the Transportation Department claiming sex discrimination when the federal agency denied him several days of child care leave that it granted to mothers in 2007.

Spiggle said under the federal Family Medical Leave Act, companies with 50 or more employees are required to allow new parents up to 12 weeks of leave. Companies are not required to make it paid leave.

He said the EEOC decision on parental leave is not a law, but is instead called “guidance.” Companies are not bound to it, but the commission is in charge of interpreting employment law, so courts look to the EEOC for guidance.

“It’s a big deal for men in the workplace,” Spiggle said. “Women can still get additional time to recover from child birth. But they cannot get more time than men for bonding.”