Does denial of male employee’s request for unpaid leave to care for newborn constitute caregiver bias?


Eric requested unpaid leave for the purpose of caring for his newborn son. Although your company has a collective bargaining agreement that allows for up to one year of unpaid leave for various personal reasons, including caring for a newborn, the personnel director denied Eric request. When Eric pointed out that women have been granted childcare leave, the director said, “That’s different. We have to give childcare leave to women.” He suggested that Eric instead request unpaid emergency leave, though that is limited to 90 days. Eric complains that he is being denied leave because he is a man. Is he correct?


Under these circumstances, the personnel director has unlawfully denied a benefit to a male worker because of a gender-based stereotype. He has violated Title VII by denying a male employee a type of leave, unrelated to pregnancy, that is granted to female employees. The Supreme Court has observed that gender-based stereotypes can influence how male workers are perceived. Unlawful assumptions about working fathers and other male caregivers have sometimes led employers to deny male employees opportunities that have been provided to working women. Although the federal EEO laws do not prohibit discrimination against caregivers per se, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has described circumstances where discrimination against caregivers might constitute unlawful disparate treatment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Adverse actions that are based on sex stereotyping violate Title VII, even if the employer is not acting out of hostility.

Source: EEOC Guidance: “Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities,” reported in the CCH Employment Practices Guide, New Developments ¶5243.

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