Jones Day faces legal action in parental leave gender discrimination case


US-based global law firm Jones Day is to face legal action from two of its former associates. The married ex-colleagues have accused the organisation of gender discrimination within its paid parental leave policy, because the father did not qualify for the paid disability leave offered to birth mothers.

The lawsuit is being brought by married couple Mark Savignac and Julia Sheketoff, who worked at Jones Day until January 2019 and August 2018, respectively. The pair are arguing that the parental leave offered to Savignac was subject to gender discrimination, as he was ineligible to take the paid disability leave that is provided for birth mothers.

Savignac has stated that this arrangement perpetuates gender stereotypes because Jones Day does not require birth mothers to submit medical evidence to prove that childbirth has had a physical impact on them, which would sufficiently justify the need for disability leave.

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Savignac and Sheketoff initially raised their concerns about the legality of Jones Day’s parental leave policies in August 2018; the firm responded at that time, with both associates leaving Jones Day’s employ shortly afterwards.

The firm’s parental leave policy provides male and female lawyers who are primary caregivers with 10 weeks of paid leave, plus six weeks of unpaid leave, to be taken after the birth of the child. In addition, birth mothers are eligible to receive an extra eight weeks, aligning to the firm’s short-term disability policy. Adoptive parents can take up to 18 weeks of paid leave, regardless of gender.

Jones Day has stated that the paid parental leave policy is fully consistent with the guidance provided by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and that intrusive disclosures are not legally required in order for mothers to be able to take disability leave.

Stephen Brogan, managing partner at Jones Day, said: “Jones Day is devoted to the importance of family and maintains an environment in which our lawyers can practice at the highest professional levels and have rewarding family lives.”

Jones Day employs more than 2,500 lawyers across 43 offices in five continents.