Locality: United States - Kentucky
I work for a small (<10 employees) accounting business. The owner recently promoted me to an HR-equivalent position to handle internal payroll and time off, and she asked that I write an official time off/leave policy, which has until now been determined by her on a case-by-case basis.
I submitted my rough draft to her earlier today, and she approved of most of it, except for a section of parental leave that she strongly disagreed with. I had several weeks of full paid time off for both women and men. She argued that was fine for maternity leave, but paternity leave should be much shorter - days rather than weeks. Men who had very little involvement in childcare would nevertheless take the additional weeks off because "Why not?".
While I found her statement to be generally problematic, I do understand the reasoning behind it. We have few enough employees that extended absence from even one constitutes a significant extra workload on everyone else in the office. I fear, however, that applying different rules to men and women would be discrimination based on sex, would could make the company open to legal action (unless I am misunderstanding the law here?)
I tentatively outlined a couple of scenarios for her, such as what if the mother dies in childbirth? Or what if the mother works at a job with no paid maternity leave and must go back to work ASAP? She relented a little at this and suggested rewording the paternity leave section to say that the "Primary Caregiver" of the new child would receive the weeks of time off, while a "Secondary Caregiver" would only have the few days. In practice, this would almost always favor the mother, but not explicitly ban males from taking the full time off in unusual circumstances.
Legally speaking, is this an acceptable compromise? Or is the premise of my question flawed by misunderstanding discrimination laws?