Lactation Discrimination Case Creates Massive Controversy - The Houston Employment Law Blog

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Lactation Discrimination Case Creates Massive Controversy

A Houston judge has sparked what is being dubbed the lactation discrimination controversy by saying that that a woman who was fired for pumping at work did not suffer sex discrimination, reports KENS 5.

The lawsuit brought by Donnicia Venters came about when she came back from maternity leave, asked if it would be okay for her to use a room to pump breast milk, and found that she had been let go, reports Care 2.

Venters then filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The case eventually came before a Texas judge, who said that there was no such thing as lactation discrimination. Now the EEOC is contemplating an appeal. Timothy Browne, an EEOC attorney says:

Under the law that prohibits discrimination on pregnancy, childbirth or related medical condition, lactation is a related medical condition to pregnancy and childbirth.

It may be a valid argument but the judge did not buy it.

Maternity leave usually refers to time taken off from work prior to and after giving birth to a child. However, in the modern workplace the term parental leave has typically come to replace maternity leave. It may come as some surprise that laws covering maternity and/or parental leave are relatively new in the United States.

As far as the amount of time that a parent may take off from work, the good news is that parental leave is guaranteed for many workers under the federal law known as the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA).

Under the Act, a covered employee is entitled to 12 weeks of leave within any given 12-month time period. On the down side, this leave is not required to be paid for by the employer. Still, an employee may be able to use accrued vacation time or paid time off (PTO) in order to receive their full wages for at least part of the time they are away from work.

But as this case shows, when new mothers come back to work, they still may face new difficulties in the workplace.

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