Ohio’s school districts have long recognized the requirement not to discriminate against employees on the basis of certain protected classes. Discrimination related to pregnancy, childbirth or maternity/parental leave constitutes discrimination on the basis of sex. Schools have to treat a woman who is temporarily disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions the same as any other disabled employee. Any additional benefits the district offers for either parent is at the district’s discretion.
The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) recently settled a case involving parental leave with Chase Bank. The case settlement highlights Title VII’s applicability to maternity/parental leave policies. In that case, Chase was alleged to have discriminated against fathers in the provision of paid leave. Specifically, Chase offered 16 weeks of paid parental leave to the parent who was the primary caregiver. This leave was automatically granted to women who applied for it. Men who applied were first required to show their spouse or partner had returned to work or was medically incapable of caring for the child. If a man could not prove this, he would receive only two weeks of paid leave.
Chase ultimately settled for $5 million and agreed to maintain a gender neutral leave policy and train its employees in administering the policy in a gender neutral way. For school districts, the important take-away depends on what leave is offered. If a district offers maternity leave only to women who are temporarily disabled due to the pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, it is not required to offer men any paid paternity leave. However, if the district offers maternity leave for anything other than a temporary disability, such as leave to bond and care for the child, fathers must be offered the ability to apply for the same parental leave that is offered to mothers.