The Justice Department announced today that it secured a settlement agreement with the City of Tampa, Florida, to resolve the department’s lawsuit alleging that Tampa discriminated against its male employees who sought parental leave by denying them the same level of parental leave it offered to its female employees.
The alleged discrimination resulted in a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII is a federal statute that prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion and sex, including pregnancy policies, and prohibits retaliation against employees for opposing discriminatory employment practices.
“Providing paid parental leave to employees is a significant benefit that many families rely on so that they can take care of their children,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This agreement sends a clear message that in providing paid or unpaid parental leave, employers must guarantee that those benefits are provided without reliance on presumptions about which parent can be the primary caregiver. The Justice Department is steadfast in its commitment to enforce federal civil rights laws and ensure that employers provide all employees leave benefits without discrimination.”
“Employers must grant parental leave benefits regardless of sex,” said U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg for the Middle District of Florida. “The resolution achieved in this case is a demonstration of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s assurance to the community that employment discrimination based on a protected class, including sex, will not be tolerated.”
According to the complaint, the City of Tampa adopted a parental leave policy from February 2017 to December 2018 that in practice barred male employees from using up to 320 hours of parental leave available to female employees for the purpose of serving as “primary caregivers” of a new child. Instead, Tampa granted male employees only 80 hours of parental leave as “secondary caregivers,” even if they were actually the primary caregiver for the family’s new child. In the complaint, the Justice Department states that about 150 male employees were impacted by the parental leave policy and approved for secondary caregiver leave of up to 80 hours.
According to the complaint, at least 10 male employees formally requested primary caregiver leave and were denied the leave because of their sex, regardless of how much evidence they provided to Tampa to show that they were acting as the primary caregiver for the child, while others were discouraged from applying for primary caregiver leave by their supervisors or officials with the City’s Human Resources department. As the complaint states, men were consistently denied primary caregiver leave status, while Tampa regularly granted female caregivers the full 320 hours of primary caregiver leave.
Under the proposed consent decree, which is subject to court approval, Tampa will credit up to 240 hours of additional leave time to each of the male employees who would have taken primary caregiver parental leave if it had been available to them under the policy. Tampa will also pay the impacted employees collectively $300,000 in compensation. The consent decree also requires Tampa to adopt new policies and procedures, including a new parental leave policy that does not discriminate based on sex, and to provide its employees training on these new policies.
The United States’ complaint is based on a charge of discrimination filed with the Miami District Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by one of Tampa’s employees impacted by the parental leave policy, Jeffrey Burger. The EEOC investigated and found reasonable cause to believe that Tampa violated Title VII. After unsuccessful conciliation efforts, the EEOC referred it to the Justice Department as an enforcement action.
“Parental leave policies should not reflect presumptions or stereotypes about gender roles,” said Director Tamra Schweiberger of the EEOC Tampa Field Office. “When it comes to providing leave for bonding with a new child or flexibility in returning to work from that leave, mothers and fathers should be treated equally.”
Trial Attorneys Jeffrey Morrison and Christine Dinan of the Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Yohance A. Pettis for the Middle District of Florida handled this case.
The Justice Department’s lawsuit is part of a joint effort to enhance collaboration between the Department and the EEOC in the vigorous enforcement of Title VII. More information about the EEOC’s jurisdiction is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov. Additional information regarding caregiver discrimination is available in the EEOC technical assistance document found at EEOC Releases Information about Employment Discrimination Against Caregivers | U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The enforcement of Title VII and other federal employment discrimination laws is a top priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division and its work is available on its websites at www.justice.gov/crt and www.justice.gov/crt/employment-litigation-section.