Woman Gets Fired for Pumping Breast Milk, Judge Says its OK - The Houston Employment Law Blog

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Woman Gets Fired for Pumping Breast Milk, Judge Says its OK

Any mother who's gone back to work shortly after having a baby knows how difficult it can be. Now, throw breastfeeding into the mix and it becomes even harder. Not everyone at work understands breastfeeding or will sympathize with a mom who wants to find a private place to pump milk.

But now, to make it even harder for working moms, it's actually legal to fire a woman for lactating at work. Rather, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 does not prevent employers from firing a woman for pumping breast milk.

That’s coming from the case of EEOC v. Houston Funding II Ltd et al.

The case was brought in the Federal District Court in the Southern District of Texas. After Judge Lynn N. Hughes ruled that the company was within its legal rights to fire a woman for breastfeeding at work, the EEOC appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and argued before it in May.

Here’s a breakdown of the case: A woman took less than three months for maternity leave, back in 2009. She asked her employer, Houston Funding, if she could express milk in the back of her office once she came back from her short maternity leave.

Once she asked her employer, she was notified that they had already filled her job because they had no idea when she was planning to return. Their excuse was that she was fired for “job abandonment.”

She alleged, via the EEOC, that she was fired because she wanted to pump breast milk. Was that sufficient to fall under the ambit of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act?

Apparently not. The judge ruled that once her pregnancy ended, so did her conditions related to pregnancy. But is that accurate? Women who have experienced pregnancy would argue that “conditions related to pregnancy” continue well after the pregnancy is over.

But the law says otherwise. Or does it? The appeal could help better define the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Come back to find out.

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