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California surrogate claims discrimination, can't pump at work

A California woman who is a gestational surrogate is suing her employer for the right to take lactation breaks. The woman, who does not have an infant at home but still needs to pump breast milk to send to the baby's parents, says she has been the target of sex discrimination by staff members at the LAX Marriott. The woman says that she was denied the opportunity to pump breast milk at work even though her doctor sent a note indicating its benefits.

The woman had given birth in April 2014 and asked for lactation breaks when she returned to work about two months later. Her breast milk requirements for the parents actually ended in June 2014, but the woman has continued to pump in order to donate to milk banks and provide milk for other women who cannot breastfeed. Her lactation breaks expired at the end of July 2014, at which time the woman began to pump at night. This has caused her serious health problems such as breast pain, clogged ducts and sleeplessness because she cannot pump during the day.

The woman is furious that she is unable to continue to pump at work, particularly because Marriott has characterized the practice as exercising during work. Ultimately, this sex discrimination case is designed to determine whether the employee has the right to continue to pump at work even though she does not have an infant child at home. If the jury finds in her favor, the woman could receive the breaks she needs instead of having to pump during lunch.

This case could better define the rights of employers to know about employees' pregnancy and what they intend to do with their babies. The surrogate in this case does not have an infant at home, but that does not mean that she shouldn't have the same rights as any other pumping mother. Employers in California could be prevented from engaging in discrimination against surrogates and others in similar situations.

Source: Slate, "Pregnancy Surrogate Sues Marriott for Denying Her Lactation Breaks at Work," Christina Cauterucci, Nov. 06, 2015

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