An 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?