A judge in Texas stated that lactation “was not pregnancy-related, and as a result, firing someone because of lactation or breast-pumping is not sex discrimination.” Sometimes I wonder if the news is a joke. The sad part is that this is no joke. This is real life. So, feeding your child is basically reason to be fired? I have to say – I never was able to breast feed but I know plenty of moms who do, and I can’t imagine if this happened to one of them. It may not be sex discrimination in the eyes of a judge, but it just isn’t right. What would you call it?
The Houston woman was fired after she simply asked her employer for a place to breast pump upon returning from maternity leave.
According to ABC4.com in Salt Lake City, in her ruling Judge Lynn Hughes wrote, “She gave birth on December 11, 2008. After that day, she was no longer pregnant and her pregnancy related conditions had ended.”
The World Health Organization recommends breast feeding should continue for 2 years. For working mothers, the breast pump is the only way to get their babies the milk they need.
Like myself, Christy Porucznik, Spokesperson for La Leche League of Utah disagrees. She said, “Men can’t lactate and so if it is related to lactation and breast pumping, from my perception that would seem like sex discrimination.”
“People in the world, including employers, don’t necessarily understand how important the process of milk expression is when mom and baby are separated for maintaining milk supply and for both mother and baby’s health,” said Porucznik.
“Breast feeding is like the third trimester,” said Porucznik. “After you have that baby your body is ready to lactate. The way you keep making milk is by breast feeding or by expressing that milk.”
Finding a safe place to express that milk at work is difficult for many working women. Alicen Bringard works at the University of Utah. She says she’s lucky she has her own office where she was able to close the doors and pump, but she says she feels for those mothers who don’t have that luxury. “I’m all for establishing a place in the workplace for those people that maybe don’t have an office; an appropriate place for women to go and pump,” said Bringard.
That’s exactly what Utah Representative Jennifer Seeling is looking to do. She is sponsoring a House resolution on breast feeding that is designed to make breast feeding and breast pumping at the workplace easier for working moms. The bill includes mention of unpaid break time for breast feeding or pumping and requires workplaces to have appropriate and safe places for women to do so.
See all of Casi’s Being Pregnant posts here.