In a recent employment law decision, a federal district court found in favor of a woman's claim that she had experienced discrimination while breast-feeding. In this instance, the woman expressed breast milk in a shared office. She had been instructed to use the designated “lactation room”, however her job duties as a clinical bed manager in a hospital made this difficult. Further, the time required to leave her office and go to the room, disrupted her work flow and made timely completion of her work challenging. As a result, she pumped milk at her desk. Unfortunately, her supervisors were not accommodating – they berated her for pumping and tried to sneak into her office unannounced to catch her pumping. They even followed her into the restroom and peeked into the stall to see if she was expressing milk. The employee was subsequently fired. She filed a sex discrimination and retaliation lawsuit pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964. The federal district court determined that “lactation is a pregnancy-related medical condition that qualifies for protection from discrimination.” The court also determined that the supervisors actions in trying to catch her were gave rise to an inference of discrimination and harassment.
While this case was brought pursuant to Title VII, other laws extend protections to women who are pregnant, or have recently given birth. For example, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions. Although this doesn't mean that pregnant women are entitled to special treatment, it does mean that pregnant women must be treated equally to non-pregnant individuals. Further, the Affordable Care Act amends the Fair Labor Standards Act to require employers to provide reasonable break time for expressing milk for up to a year, and must provide a place, other than a bathroom. The State of Georgia also has laws protecting breast-feeding mothers.
If you believe that you have suffered any form of discrimination, including pregnancy and childbirth related discrimination or harassment, please contact our experienced Atlanta employment discrimination lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.