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Breastfeeding At Work: Teacher Sues For Gender Discrimination

California and federal law does not allow employers to discriminate against people on the basis of gender and a new case offers interesting insight into what exactly counts under this category. In this lawsuit, a California teacher claims that a school district fired her because of her request to take a short break every morning to pump milk for her child.

When an employer discriminatorily fires someone based on a protected characteristic, the law deems this a wrongful termination. Employees who experienced a wrongful termination are entitled to sue the employer for violating the discrimination laws

In this case, a teacher claims that she asked the school district to allow her to spend 15 minutes every morning away from the classroom. She had recently returned to work from maternity leave and needed to feed her newborn child. According to her lawsuit, however, a manager at the school refused the request and told her to try “training” her breasts so that she could pump at a different time of day away from work.

The teacher claims that she started receiving poor performance reviews shortly afterwards and that the school asked her to resign.

Various laws require employers to make reasonable accommodations for their workers. If these allegations are true, it looks as if this employer could be liable for completely refusing to consider accommodating the mother’s need to breastfeed. This could be the first case to use California’s new law that prohibits discrimination against breastfeeding mothers – the new law explicitly says that this is a form of gender discrimination.

Source: Washington Post, “Teacher sues Calif. district, says her breastfeeding needs were not accommodated,” Nov. 14, 2012

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