Lactation Discrimination Recognized by Federal Court

Fifth Circuit Holds Lactation Discrimination is Unlawful Under Title VII

In a victory for breastfeeding mothers, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit unanimously held that “firing a woman because she is lactating or expressing milk is unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978).”

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (which essentially expands the definition of “sex” discrimination to explicitly include pregnancy) prohibits employers from discriminating against women “on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition.”  But courts previously have not considered lactation to be a “related condition” of pregnancy (even though barring some medical anomaly or condition a woman’s breasts fill with milk after delivering a baby whether or not she breastfeeds). Which has meant that moms who experience discrimination at work due to nursing or pumping have had no viable action under Title VII discrimination laws.  Until now!

The Fifth Circuit’s decision is monumental because it broadens the definition of sex-based discrimination and makes it clear that “discharging a female employee because she is lactating or expressing breast milk constitutes sex discrimination in violation of Title VII.”  

Read more at the EEOC Press Release: Fifth Circuit Holds Lactation Discrimination is Unlawful Sex Discrimination Also see 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-(k).

While “Title VII and the PDA do not require special accommodations to women due to pregnancy and related medical conditions,” Claudia Molina-Antanaitis, trial attorney with the EEOC’s Houston District Office, hopes that the Fifth Circuit’s decision sends a clear message to working women: “discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth and related conditions is against the law and that the EEOC is here to help.”

Allowing this case to go forward opens the door wide for other claims, even if this plaintiff doesn’t prevail in the end.  We applaud the Fifth Circuit federal court for moving us one step closer to ending the sabotage, harassment and discrimination that Booby Trap® and prevent millions of moms each year from achieving their personal breastfeeding goals.

For more on the Fifth Circuit’s decision, you can read the full opinion on PDF, or check out the Workplace Prof Blog.

For an in-depth article on pumping and the law, see Pumping 9 to 5 at BreastfeedingLaw.com. To get excellent advice from real pumping moms, see 35 Tips and Tricks for Pumping Mamas at Natural Parents Network.

For ideas on how you can support the pumping moms in your life, see 40 Ways to Support Pumping Moms (at Home and at Work) at Code Name: Mama.

If you or someone you know has been harassed for Nursing in Public (including at work) call our Harassment Hotline at 1-855-NIP-FREE.

For more information about how get involved with the Mother of All Causes and our Take Action network of volunteer advocates, visit us @ www.bestforbabes.org/takeaction, or donate to our Foundation!  We are a self-supporting nonprofit dependent on the generosity of individuals like YOU! 

 

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Dionna is a lawyer turned work at home mama of two amazing kids, Kieran and Ailia. You can normally find Dionna over at Code Name: Mama where she shares information, resources, and her thoughts on natural parenting and life with little ones. Dionna is also cofounder of Natural Parents Network and NursingFreedom.org, and author of For My Children: A Mother’s Journal of Memories, Wishes, and Wisdom.



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