Last week, my wife and I were overjoyed to welcome our second child into this world. … As the due date for our second child approached, I reached out to J.P. Morgan’s Human Resources Department to request parental leave. J.P. Morgan gives “primary caregivers” 16 weeks of paid parental leave, while “secondary caregivers” get only two weeks. I explained that I wanted to be the primary caregiver for my baby son.
I was shocked by the response: J.P. Morgan said that only mothers are automatically considered to be primary caregivers. The company then said that if I wanted additional paid leave as a father, I would have to show that either my wife had returned to work — which is not possible in our case, as my wife is a special education teacher currently on summer break — or that the child’s mother was “medically incapable of providing any care for the child.”
In 2017, employers should not dictate the parental roles of their employees along gender lines.
J.P. Morgan’s policy effectively forces families to treat mothers as the primary caregiver, except in exceptional circumstances.
Folks, to my eyes, this is flat-out sex discrimination. You are absolutely allowed to draw parental-leave lines based on the fact that women give birth.
That distinction is medically supportable, as women need recovery time after childbirth that men do not. You cannot, however, base this distinction on your idea of which gender should be the “primary” caregiver. For example, I once heard an employer say, “If your wife is going to work full time you need to hire a nanny to free up your time.” My response: “If you want to me hire a nanny so I can work more, I’ll need an extra $40,000 a year.”
In my house, we share parental responsibilities, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. And, I won’t tolerate an employer that does not respect that. You can call this family-friendly, or work-life balance. I call it straight-up decency.
We don’t live in an Ozzie & Harriet world any more. Long gone are the days when a wife waits at home to greet her husband with a pair of slippers and a martini while she puts dinner on the table.
There is only one unhappy ending to telling one of your employees that he doesn’t belong at home with his children. It starts with law- and ends with -suit. Women work and men parent their children, and no one should be punished doing either.
If your workplace policies draw parental-role lines for employees based on gender, and gender-based stereotypes, then you might be the worst employer of 2017.
Jon Hyman is a partner at Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis in Cleveland. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Hyman’s blog at Workforce.com/PracticalEmployer.
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