Labor & Employment

Federal Judge Nixes EEOC Breast Milk Pumping Case, Finds No COA re 'Lactation Discrimination'

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A federal judge in Texas says a mother was not protected by law from losing her job even if it’s true she was fired for asking to pump breast milk at work for her baby.

“Lactation is not pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition,” and hence there is no cause of action for “lactation discrimination” under federal civil rights law protecting pregnant women, said U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes in a written opinion (PDF) last week in the Houston case, to which KTRK provides a link.

“Discrimination because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition is illegal. Related conditions may include cramping, dizziness, and nausea while pregnant,” the judge explained. However, because complainant Donnica Venters was no longer pregnant at the time her employment ceased, she was no longer protected under this rubric.

Venters and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed the lawsuit in the Southern District of Texas, are considering an appeal, KHOU reports.

Meanwhile, her former employer, Houston Funding, says Venters was not fired in 2009, as she claims, but simply decided to leave the job.

“We didn’t violate the law because there was no law,” said a spokesman for the employer, noting that Houston Funding spent a considerable sum to defend the case.

Venters, who had been on maternity leave after the birth of her daughter, says she kept in touch with the debt-collection agency afterward, making clear that she expected to return to work soon. However, when she called to set a date to return to work and asked about breast-pumping arrangements, she says, she was told her position had been filled, KTRK recounts.

Related coverage: “Moms Plan Nurse-In on National Mall in Washington, DC”

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