The American Civil Liberties Union is accusing JPMorgan Chase& Co. of violating the Civil Rights Act by discriminatingagainst fathers when they ask for parental leave.

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Related: Parental leave benefits are hardlyimproving

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The ACLU filed its complaint Thursday with the Equal EmploymentOpportunity Commission. If the EEOC finds merit in the case and theparties are unwilling to settle, it could give the green light tobring a federal lawsuit against the bank.

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“For whatever reason, companies are not complying with the law,and we do hope that this case serves as a wake-up call,” said ACLUattorney Galen Sherwin.

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JPMorgan said it received the complaint and is reviewing it.

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The plaintiff in the ACLU’s case is Derek Rotondo, an Ohio-basedemployee who says that before the birth of his second child, heapplied for the 16 weeks of parental leave JPMorgan Chase providesif an employee is the "primary caregiver" of a new child. If theemployee is the "non-primary" caregiver, he gets two weeks.

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The bank touted those 16 weeks in its annual report to beshareholders last year. "Becoming a parent is both joyful andstressful so we want to do everything we can to support ouremployees through this life-changing event," Chief ExecutiveOfficer Jamie Dimon said in the report.

‘Medically incapable’

When Rotondo, 32, put in for leave in May, JPMorgan informed himby phone and in writing that it starts from the presumption thatthe primary caregiver is a child’s birth mother, according to thecomplaint.

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For Rotondo to get that designation, he’d have to show that hiswife was returning to work within 16 weeks of giving birth or thatshe was “medically incapable” of taking care of the baby.

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Because his wife, who works as a teacher, was healthy and hadthe summer off, Rotondo couldn’t qualify as primary caregiver. “Iconsider myself really a dad first -- everything else comessecond,” he said in an interview. “This time is very important forme to spend with him to get to know each other.”

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Related: Moms get more paid parental leave, surveysays

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By granting caregiver leave automatically to women but not tomen, JP Morgan is violating the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which banssex discrimination in employment, Rotondo’s lawyers say.

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They cite recent guidance from the EEOC that distinguishesbetween post-partum medical leave and parental leave to bond withand care for a new child. Medical leave can be “limited to womenaffected” by childbirth or related conditions, the EEOC said in2015.

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“However, parental leave must be provided to similarly situatedmen and women on the same terms,” according to the agency.

Developing law

“We recognize that both women and men would like to be involvedin the care of their children early on, and we’re expectingemployers to think carefully about whether they are in factdiscriminating against men,” Chai Feldblum, an EEOC commissioner,said.

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Related: Corporate America fails to embrace paid familyleave

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Sex discrimination in parental leave policies is an area wherethe case law is still developing, she said. “We’re just coming intoan era where fathers are demanding significant parental leave.”

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JPMorgan’s policy “relies upon and enforces a sex-basedstereotype that women are and should be caretakers ofchildren,” Rotondo’s complaint says, whereas “men are notand should not be caretakers and instead do and should return towork shortly after the birth of a child.”

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“JPMorgan Chase is explicitly giving care-giving leave to womenon different terms than men," said attorney Peter Romer-Friedman ofOutten & Golden, who brought the case along with the nationalACLU and its Ohio branch.

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In 2013, a client of Romer-Friedman’s filed an EEOC complaintagainst CNN, which he said offered 10 weeks of paid leave tomothers who had given birth, but (other than in cases of adoptionor surrogacy) only two weeks to new fathers.

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The client and the network reached a settlement in 2015, and thecompany now offers six weeks of paid postpartum medical leave tomothers as well as six weeks care-giving leave to new parentsregardless of gender.

‘Critical mass’

It’s too soon to say whether courts will embrace the EEOC’s viewof what constitutes a discriminatory parental leave policy, saidJulie Yap, a Sacramento-based partner at law firm Seyfarth Shaw whodefends employers in discrimination cases.

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“Until there’s a critical mass of cases that result in judicialopinions, I think it’s anyone’s guess whether we’ll get a consensusfrom circuit courts or the Supreme Court,” said Yap. In themeantime, she said, “there’s risk in straying” from what the EEOChas set forth.

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The EEOC, meanwhile, is about to undergo a makeover. PresidentDonald Trump is slated to nominate a new general counsel for theagency, and by July enough of its Democratic commissioners’ termswill have expired for him to install a Republican majority.Industry groups hope a new GOP makeup will bring changes to theagency’s approach and to some of its past stances.

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Related: Paid family leave could happen under Trump budgetproposal

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“It’s impossible to predict what the position of the EEOC willbe once there is a majority of Republican commissioners,” saidFeldblum, a Democratic appointee. “I don’t see any indication sofar that on this issue there is a Republican-Democratic divide, butwe’ll have to wait and see.”

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