Terminating Female Employee for Pumping Breast Milk Is Sex Discrimination

Carol Keough May 31, 2013

Both Title VII and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prevent an employer from firing an employee for pumping breast milk during working hours according to a new decision from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decided on May 30, 2013, called EEOC v. Houston Funding II.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought suit against Houston Funding II for firing Donnicia Venters for requesting to use a breast pump at work for pumping milk for her newborn child.  Donnicia wanted to return to work, but needed to continue pumping breast milk after being released by her doctor.  After receiving a full release from her doctor, Donnicia was told that her position had been filled.  The testimony showed that one of the owners said “no” when asked if Donnicia could pump milk while at work.  The owner also said that “maybe she should stay home longer.”

The court held that the EEOC had stated a cognizable claim under Title VII for sex discrimination.  The court also held that pumping milk is a related medical condition protected under the PDA.  Double trouble for Houston Funding II because the case was sent back to the trial court for further proceedings against the company.  As a business, consider a lactation break policy to avoid what happened to Houston Funding II.

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