Savvy HR people and line managers know not to assume male employees have less responsibility at home than women.

But in this 21st-century world of daddy day care, you don’t have to give men more work-life flexibility than women, either.

That’s the lesson from a recent legal case in Virginia, involving a male drug rep and his employer.

School-work conflict
The rep had agreed with his wife, a lawyer, to take their child to school four days a week. School started at 8:30 a.m., so the rep habitually began work after the 8 a.m. start time his supervisor had set. The supervisor asked him why his wife couldn’t take the child to school.

Later, the supervisor obliged the rep to undergo extra training, and another manager gave him an unsatisfactory performance rating.

The rep reacted by suing for sex discrimination. He claimed he was penalized for taking on a family duty the boss considered “woman’s work.”

Female rep got same treatment
But a federal court dismissed the rep’s lawsuit. The court noted that a female rep who, like him, had a young child and was married to an attorney, had been subjected to the same start time as the plaintiff and every other rep under that supervisor.

While the supervisor might have shown some “general hostility” about child-care responsibilities, the court said, he didn’t discriminate on the basis of sex.

Takeaway: If you afford both male and female employees the same degree of work-life flexibility, you should be fine.

Cite: Nathan v. Takeda Pharmaceuticals America, No. 1:11-cv-1360, E.D. Va., 8/24/12.

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