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Judge says lactation discrimination is legal

We have written previously about the ways in which workplace discrimination plagues various groups in Southern Florida and across the nation. One of these groups consists of pregnant and breastfeeding women.

In a recent complaint, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged that a Texas employer was guilty of pregnancy discrimination because it fired a female worker who asked permission to operate her breast pump in the privacy of a back room in the office.

When the worker went on maternity leave, she was promised that her position would be saved for her and she consistently indicated her desire to return to work at the end of her leave. However, when she called to schedule her return, she was abruptly told that her position had been filled immediately following her request to breast pump in a back room of the office.

Shockingly, the judge who heard the case ruled that the employer was not guilty of discrimination because "firing someone because of lactation or breast-pumping is not sex discrimination."

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has long protected women from discrimination due to "pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth." Understandably, legal experts are confounded by the judge's ruling, as lactation and breastfeeding are quite obviously conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth.

The EEOC has yet to decide whether or not it will appeal the ruling. However, federal protections explicitly granted to female employees desiring to breast pump at work should hopefully keep similar cases from arising in Florida and elsewhere.

Source: ABC News, "Judge Backs Firing of Houston Breastpumping Worker," Susanna Kim, Feb. 8, 2012

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