For many women, the decision to return to work after giving birth to a child can be a difficult one to make. Employers can make the decision even harder by unlawfully discriminating against women who may still be lactating or expressing breast milk. In a recent case, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the termination of a female employee “because she is lactating or expressing breast milk constitutes sex discrimination in violation of Title VII.”
In EEOC v. Houston Funding II, the new mother expressed her desire to return to work after her doctor had given her permission to do so. Since she was breastfeeding, she asked her employer if she could use her breast pump in a back room while at work. Unfortunately her employer was not open to the idea and terminated her for supposedly abandoning her job. The trial court granted summary judgment to her employer, finding that “firing someone because of lactation oe breast-pumping is not sex discrimination and that lactation is not a related medical condition of pregnancy.” However, the Court of Appeals vacated the summary judgment of the trial court, finding that the new mother had sufficiently stated a sex discrimination claim under Title VII and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
What protection does Title VII and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act Provide?
Title VII and the Kentucky Civil Rights Act prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sex. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act provides that “the terms ‘because of sex’ or ‘on the basis of sex’ include, but are not limited to, because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.”
Taken collectively, these statutes protect women from discriminatory decisions related to their employment because of their “female physiology,” which includes pregnancy, childbirth, lactation or the expression of milk.
What are possible remedies?
As with other forms of employment discrimination, various remedies can be recovered against your employer if you are the victim of sex discrimination under Title VII or the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The attorneys at Abney & McCarty will aggressively pursue your claim based on the type of injury suffered. For example, if you were demoted because of a pregnancy-related medical condition, we can fight for reinstatement to your former job and wages. If you were unlawfully terminated, we can seek reinstatement or other equitable relief, including any out-of-pocket expenses you incur because of your employer’s unlawful discrimination against you.
If you have recently had a child and feel as though you are the victim of sex discrimination, the attorneys at Abney & McCarty can help! This is a joyous time in your life. You should be celebrating the birth of your child, not suffering from adverse employment actions because of your decision to become a parent.