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Woman fired for asking to use breast pump at work

Giving birth to a child is one of the most joyous experiences a mother can have. Fortunately, many working moms in California are protected under state and federal medical leave rights so that they can take time off of work after they have a child to recover and to bond with their new baby.

When it is time for new moms to return to work after maternity leave, it can be a very difficult and emotional transition. However, many mothers may also have faith in their employers to provide an accommodating workplace for them if they want to continue breastfeeding by designating places for mothers to pump. Sadly, some women have discovered that breast pumping at work is not always encouraged by employers.

Earlier this month, a Houston woman lost her lawsuit that had been filed against her employer after she was fired for asking to use a bathroom at the office so that she could pump during the workday.

After working at her company for more than two years, the woman gave birth to a baby girl in December 2008 and informed her employer that she was planning on returning to work after her maternity leave in February 2009. But before the woman was scheduled to return to work, she called her employer and asked if she could use the bathroom at the office to pump during the day. She was then told by her employer that her position had been filled because they did not know that she planned on coming back to work.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against the Texas woman's employer on her behalf citing violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects women from being discriminated against because of "pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth."

After reviewing the case, the judge concluded that "firing someone because of lactation or breast-pumping is not sex discrimination." A law professor at the University of California was surprised by the ruling arguing that breastfeeding is a medical condition resulting from pregnancy and birth; therefore, firing someone for choosing to use a breast pump at work should be considered discrimination and grounds for a wrongful termination claim.

In California, private employers are required to provide breastfeeding workers with some accommodations so that they can pump at work. If working mothers believe that their rights have been violated in any way in the workplace regarding breastfeeding issues, they may want to consider speaking with an attorney in order to make sure that their employer is abiding by state laws.

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