Typically, people think of new mothers when they consider a company’s parental leave benefits. However, fathers are also affected by the event of a new child, and are entitled to parental leave.

Fathers do not require the physical rest that new mothers do, but they have a right to bonding time with their baby. In fact, the same is true for new adopted children or children born through surrogate mothers. Any new child changes family dynamics and requires a period of adjustment. What are companies required to provide their employees?

Equal parental leave benefits

Regardless of the employee’s gender, companies need to provide their employees with equal parental leave benefits. Estée Lauder was recently sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for providing mothers with better parental leave benefits than fathers.

Fathers at Estée Lauder were given 14 weeks of parental leave after the birth of their child, while mothers were given 18 weeks of leave. Although both of these amounts exceed those required by federal law, they are still unacceptable since they differ based on the employee’s gender.

What are you legally entitled to?

Employees are legally entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave upon the birth or adoption of a child if they:

  • Have worked at that company for at least a year
  • Have worked at least half time for that year
  • Work for a company with at least 21 employees

After a company meets the basic minimum of 12 weeks, they can set policies that exceed this amount. Some companies provide employees with paid leave, others choose to offer additional weeks off. They are allowed to set these policies as long as they are equal for all employees regardless of gender.

If your company fails to provide you with your basic parental leave rights, or if you believe that their policies vary between employees based on factors such as age, disability, gender, race, national origin, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, contact an attorney who can evaluate your circumstances and fight for your rights.