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Parental leave policies must not discriminate against fathers

California employers might want to review and perhaps reconsider their leave policies in light of a recent settlement between the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Time Warner Inc. Specifically, employers should ensure any parental leave policies in place do not discriminate against natural or adoptive fathers.

A former male employee of Time Warner charged the company with discrimination. At the time of his employment, company policy provided new mothers and adoptive parents with 10 weeks of paid leave after the birth or adoption, while biological fathers received only two weeks of leave. The company voluntarily modified its parental leave policy, allowing all new parents, biological and adoptive, male and female, six weeks of paid leave following the birth or adoption of a child. Additionally, birth mothers are allowed up to two weeks of paid short-term disability leave.

The company's new policy and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's guidance emphasize that the parental leave policies must treat all people equally Policies to the contrary may be workplace discrimination. California employers with more than 50 employees must abide by the California Family Rights Act as well. Under the state regulations, eligible employees of either gender are allowed up to 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave. This is in addition to the disability leave birth mothers are permitted for medical conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth.

If a company provides parental leave, it must be sure to provide leave to parents of both genders on an equal basis. It is important to distinguish between leave related to medical reasons and those related to the bonding and care of a child. People who believe that they have been treated unfairly in this regard may want to discuss their situations with an employment law attorney.

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