Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Estée Lauder

$1.1 Million Settlement

Date of Verdict: July 17.

Court and Case No.: U.S. E.D. of Pa. No. 2:17-cv-03897-JP.

Type of Action: Civil rights, employment.

Injuries: Back pay, compensation.

Plaintiffs Counsel: Maria L. Morocco and Thomas D. Rethage Jr., Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Defense Counsel: John M. Nolan and Angela Quiles-Nevarez, Jackson Lewis, Philadelphia.


In June 2015, charging party Christopher Sullivan was informed by his employer, Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., that it had rejected his application for primary caregiver leave under the company’s parental leave policies. The company had created parental leave policies for eligible biological mothers and fathers in July 2013. The parental leave at issue was separate from medical leave received by mothers for childbirth.

Sullivan asserted that the company, under the policies, provided lesser parental leave benefits for purposes of child bonding to biological fathers than to biological mothers. Whereas all eligible biological mothers were provided up to six weeks of paid primary caregiver parental leave and were entitled to the transition back-to-work benefit, all biological fathers were provided only two weeks of paid secondary caregiver leave, and were not entitled to the transition back-to-work benefit, Sullivan claimed.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, acting on behalf of Sullivan and 210 others similarly situated, sued Estée Lauder, alleging violations of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The EEOC maintained that Estée Lauder unlawfully denied new fathers return-to-work benefits provided to new mothers, such as temporary modified work schedules, to ease the transition to work after the arrival of a new child and exhaustion of paid parental leave.

Estée Lauder denied the allegations. According to the company, it had recently expanded its family-related benefits, including its paid parental leave benefits, for all its employees.

The company maintained that it had expanded paid parental leave to 20 weeks for all eligible employees irrespective of gender, and added or enhanced benefits around adoption, child and elder care, and infant transition support.

The EEOC sought to recover back pay and unspecified amounts in compensatory and punitive damages. The EEOC further sought to have Estée Lauder institute anti-discrimination policies and provide training on employee rights under Title VII.

The parties settled for $1.1 million, prior to trial. Under a decree, Estée Lauder will pay the settlement to a class of 210 male employees, who, under Estée Lauder’s parental leave policy, received two weeks of paid parental leave as compared to the six weeks of paid leave for child-bonding received by new mothers after their medical leave ended.

The decree also requires Estée Lauder to administer parental leave and related return-to-work benefits in a manner that ensures equal benefits for male and female employees and utilizes sex-neutral criteria, requirements and processes.

Estée Lauder is also required to provide training on unlawful sex discrimination and allow monitoring by the EEOC.

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s and defense counsel. —This report first appeared in VerdictSearch, an ALM publication.