Fired for Breastfeeding??

One of the hardest things I had to do after having E was go back to work. Leaving a baby at 12 weeks or less is not easy, especially when you are breastfeeding. Pumps, schedules, arrangements… it’s all quite stressful. Imagine talking to your supervisor on the phone to let them know of your intent to pump and being fired because you want to pump your breastmilk for your baby. And then imagine a judge siding with your (now) ex-employer because they believe that “lactation is not a pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.”

Sadly, this is exactly what happened to Texas mom Donnicia Venters. While out of the office after having a baby, she spoke to her boss. She asked to use a back room to pump in and was told that the company had filled her spot while she was gone. She took her employer to court where a judge ruled that the employer did not violate a section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because “lactation is not a pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition”. ABC News has the full article.

I’m not even going to discuss the simple biology that disproves the judge’s statement. Really, Your Honor? Not related to pregnancy or childbirth?! I’m wonder if Ms. Venters will pursue legal action against her ex-employer for violating FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) by replacing her while she was caring for her newborn child. This is, of course, if she qualified for FMLA.

While the amendment to the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) has allowed many non-exempt employees like me to have protection against such things, there are many other moms who are salaried and therefore not covered. A great example are teachers. Yup. Teachers. They’re not protected under FLSA amendment because they’re salaried. It’s crazy to me that the women who are shaping minds in school are not protected by law to provide breastmilk as food for their babies. What’s even crazier is two separate courts have ruled that breastfeeding discrimination is not gender discrimination. Yeah. My sentiments exactly.

The Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2011 was introduced in both houses of Congress last year. Passing this act would mean federal protection would extend to those employees that are exempt, including teachers. Please write your local representatives and urge them to sign it. The US Breastfeeding Committee has made it really easy. Enter your zip code to use their letter and automatically email your local representatives.

This entire situation is wrong on many levels: breastfeeding discrimination not being gender discrimination, being fired for wanting to breastfeed, the judge’s lack of basic biology knowledge. Most importantly: no mother should have to choose between her job and breastfeeding her baby.

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