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Another Mom Fired, This Time for Pumping

By Madeline Holler |

mom-fired-for-pumping-milkAn Ohio woman was fired from her warehouse job in Toledo when she continued taking extended breaks to pump breastmilk for her 5-month-old baby.

LaNisa Allen, a temporary warehouse laborer for Totes/Isotoner Corp. in West Chester, Ohio, nursed her daughter before her 6 a.m. shift but could wait until her longer break at 11 a.m. to pump. She tried negotiating with her supervisors for an earlier or longer break, but they refused. So she took unscheduled time to pump.

They fired her.

She took them to court alleging sex and pregnancy discrimination. But unlike this mom, Allen’s story does not have a happy ending. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that her employer had every right to can her.

In California, the state board of labor ordered a taqueria owner to pay $42K to an employee who he fired for nursing her baby in the car on a break. The board concluded that breastfeeding was intrinsic to women and that firing her on those grounds was sex discrimination.

In the Ohio case (scroll down), the majority only looked at the fact that Allen had not followed her supervisors orders and wait until the longer 11 a.m. break to go pump. Allen’s attorneys argued employees did not have to ask for special advanced permission to use the restroom during non-scheduled breaks. One dissenting judge said, however, that the court should have ruled on the matter of whether women have a right to pump at work.

I’d love to know how many women have been fired or pushed out of jobs for reasons related to wanting to continue nurse their babies. It’s incredibly unfair, not to mention uncomfortable, to not be allowed to skim off a bit of the breast milk build-up. Not pumping or nursing for five hours, particularly if you’re body is not used to going for so long without some draining, can be seriously uncomfortable.

One might argue if she wanted the job bad enough, she should have just weaned her kid. Okay, but she was a temporary worker. Why should she wean for a job that’s not even hers to keep? Or maybe she was weaning!

What’s especially interesting about Allen’s case and that of Maria Chavez, the fired taqueria worker, was the outcome. In one, justices were all, “nursing or not, she didn’t follow the rules.” In the other, they agreed it was sex discrimination plain and simple.

One Wall Street Journal reader had this to say:

“If you want to breastfeed, figure out a way to do it without interfering with the work day. Leaving to pump is annoying and disruptive to the rest of us.”

Do you agree? Should women just suck it up and deal with engorgement and leakage? Should workers also suck it up and deal with full bladders and irritable bowels?

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About Madeline Holler

madeline-holler

Madeline Holler

Madeline Holler is a writer, journalist, and blogger. She has written for Babble since the site launched in 2006. Her writing has appeared in various other publications both online and in print, including Salon and True/Slant (now Forbes). A native of the Midwest, Madeline lives, writes, and parents in Southern California, where she's raising two daughters and a son. Read bio and latest posts → Read Madeline's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Another Mom Fired, This Time for Pumping

  1. PlumbLucky says:

    What crap.
    So a worker should set themselves up for a sickness leave due to mastitis? In all seriousness, the US needs to get a grip: the encouragement of nursing is a shell game. They’re all for it til the reality of what it takes sets in. Five months is short of the shortest recommended duration, and far short of what the AAP would “prefer to see”. And really, as a temporary worker…could she afford to buy formula for her child?
    As for “disruptive and annoying”? KMA. I get more done on my pumping breaks (because nobody bothers me and my laptop) than the one whiner does during the rest of the day (due to his frequent coffee, cig, and dart breaks).

  2. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    Califorina, success… Ohio, defeat. Why am I not surprised? And I can’t even get into the WSJ commenter who is so disrupted by another person’s functions. Maybe that commenter should go back to kindergarten.

  3. Zanne says:

    Going without pumping for 5 hours isn’t just seriously uncomfortable and begging for mastitis; it is also likely to reduce milk her supply, especially if she has to do it every day. Following these rules may compromise her ability to breastfeed her son for the recommended 6-month minimum. It’s incredibly frustrating that the court didn’t take that into account.

  4. Laure68 says:

    How are the laws in Ohio. Thankfully for us Californians, the laws are very supportive of breastfeeding moms here.

    People can still have bad attitudes in CA, though. In my previous company (before I had kids), quite a few of the women in management positions would secretly complain about women who pumped during work time, complaining that they were taking too many breaks. When I would stand up for them (since, as far as I could see, they were worked just as much as anyone else), they would roll their eyes. Strangely enough, I never heard men making these kinds of complaints about moms pumping milk.

    This is just one situation, but I found it depressing that women, most of whom had kids themselves, couldn’t support other moms.

  5. PlumbLucky says:

    Laure68 – http://www.llli.org/Law/LawBills.html for reference on state-by-state laws. There is no noted legal requirement in Ohio that employers do anything to work with nursing mothers.
    Then there’s the whole disconnect, even in places where there ARE laws in place, how well they are followed in reality vs. “the perfect world”. Seems to be true the further down the ladder you go (if you assume “the ladder” implies the CEO is at the top, and that the temporary laborer is somewhere on a much lower rung.) Still have a long way to go…

  6. Rosana says:

    I did not ask for permission from my boss to pump. I simply went into his office and told him that I was going to be taking several 15 minute breaks throught the day to pump. I figure if several employees here take a few cigarette breaks during the day I could do the same for a more productive and justified reason. On the other hand, I guess the Wall Street Journal reader that made the STUPID comment has never left his/her desk for nothing, not even a bathroom break, since not finding him/her in the office when needed could be disruptive as well.

  7. Lauren says:

    I emailed to company last night to tell them I wouldn’t be purchasing thier products anymore. Jerks.

  8. Lauren says:

    the company, oops

  9. [...] UPDATE: Not  in Ohio! Check out this mom who got fired for pumping on her breaks. [...]

  10. Manjari says:

    Good idea, Lauren!

  11. Amber says:

    I am so following Lauren’s lead and emailing the company too! If I can find his email address, I’ll email the CEO too… Chairman, President, and CEO Douglas P. Gernert.

  12. Shylo says:

    I bet they let employees of both sexes take smoke breaks, though.

  13. Sara says:

    Ya know, reading people who talk about the people who take smoking breaks and comparing it to someone who took unauthorized breaks is way off track.

    Where I work, the smokers, take their smoke breaks on their scheduled breaks/lunch. They don’t take unauthorized breaks for their habit.

    Whereas with the case with Lanisa, she took unauthorized breaks. Why couldn’t she pump during her scheduled breaks if it was so important?

    She didn’t get it approved from management, didn’t seek the proper channels to get approval for this time.

    She failed to provide the court’s good cause that she was discriminated against.

    And does everyone believe what they read? I mean really, where’s the proof to show she WAS breastfeeding? She could have used this as a scapegoat in hopes to gain financial payout from the company, but failed. (If I remember correctly, she was asked to provide proof of the discrimination, and failed to.)

    I have no sympathy for someone who abuses the system because they think they’ll be made the exception.

    And how will the tables turn if everyone finds out she took her “scheduled breaks” to smoke? Will you have as much sympathy for her then?

  14. Lucky says:

    That’s tantamount to not allowing an employee time to treat in injury. I’ll be emailing the company too.

  15. Sara says:

    I mean the proof to show she WAS pumping (not breastfeeding)^^^

  16. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    I would love to show them the proof. Direct from the tap to the side of the head.

  17. puasamanda says:

    I sent a scathing e-mail to the customer affairs department. I am absolutely disgusted by this, and will not be buying their products again until they institute a lactation break policy which supports breastfeeding.

  18. PlumbLucky says:

    Sara, did you read the article?
    She attempted to get them to switch her break to earlier, she couldn’t make it from 6 am to 11 am when her “longer” break was. Pumping takes a while. And it isn’t a matter of “wait and do it on your break if its important”. If you can’t go 5 hours, we’re talking PAIN due to engorgement. Never mind the fact that excessive engorgement opens the door to mastitis, which is a really nasty infection that can require hospitalization and IV antibiotics.

    And really, your comment about wanting “proof” is pretty disgusting on your part.

  19. [...] results, but they do have something important in common, and I think our baby blogging friends at Strollerderby have taken a unique perspective.  These situations are not just about a mother’s right to [...]

  20. Regina Yvette says:

    Comments I feel sorry for Sara. Regardless of unscheduled or unapproved breaks, it is still sexual discrimination. I, as well as my family, will not purchase products from Totes/Iso…

  21. ed polo says:

    how strange not to let a mom pump when needed? I’m not going to buy any more totes until the company changes its policies and hires this women back with back pay!

  22. Mila says:

    Can someone post contact info for the company so we can call and complain?

  23. Info says:

    they can reach us via email at customerservice@totes.com or by phone at 1-800-762-8712 Ext. 8519.

  24. More Info says:

    From the WSJ article, you can also contact Vickie Fightmaster vickie.fightmaster@totes.com

  25. [...] while working is tough on any woman, but it’s particularly tough on politicians. I recall an article (since removed from the [...]

  26. Kriket says:

    I am a pumping mom in Ohio. This case wasn’t about pumping at work. It was about taking unscheduled breaks WITHOUT ASKING. She didn’t even bother to ask at all, she just left her area. She was told of her schedule before the job and didn’t mention that she would need to pump. She just started taking breaks on her own. You should watch the hearings for this case, google it. I know it takes some moms longer then 15 mins to pump, but 15 mins is enough to take away the fullness until you can really pump at your longer break. Ohio is an excellent state in regards to breastfeeding mothers. I have been all over the state breastfeeding and pumping and have NEVER had a single issue.

  27. Nikki says:

    Comments
    It’s so sad that women are treated this way for doing the right thing for their baby’s. If women in this country had a longer maternity leave they would be able to properly take care of their childeren and all these problems could be avoided. The first year of a child’s life they need their mother, no one else can substitute that bond.
    In other democratic country’s such as Canada, Europe, etc. Mothers get at least a year to bond with their child, but of course they realize the importance of promoting family values in those country’s; we on the other hand are work-a-holics and care about the bottom line. Why have kids if you can’t take care of them the way nature intends.
    This is a great Country, which is why everyone wants to come here, but we’ve lost site of our family values.
    They should have given this women a verbal or written warning, I think firing her was too harsh, we don’t fire people for taking a gazzillion smoke breaks, so why this poor women!

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