There is nothing that can get me more upset than someone who is discriminated against because of pregnancy or anything to do with a mother and her children. Unfortunately it is more common than it should be, and yet there is another case that shows us that something must be done about this.
A judge in Texas has ruled that the company who fired a woman for asking for a place in the office to pump her breast milk, did not discriminate against her.
Donnicia Venters worked at Houston Funding, a debt collection agency. In December 2008 she gave birth to a daughter. On February 17, 2009 she approached the Vice President of the company to let him know she wanted a private place in the office so she could pump her breast milk. The Vice President’s response to her was that her position had been filled.
A week later Venters received a termination letter back-dated to February 16, just a day prior to her request for the private room. The termination letter cited “job abandonment” as the reason for the loss of her job.
Shortly after her termination, Venters contacted a lawyer from the Equal Opportunity Commission who sued her former company for discrimination. Unfortunately last week, Judge Lynn Hughes dismissed the case stating that Venters’ complaint was not discrimination under the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination because of pregnancy.
“She gave birth on December 11, 2008. After that day, she was no longer pregnant, and her pregnancy-related conditions had ended,” Judge Hughes said in her ruling.
As someone who pumped twice and sometimes three times a day in a private room while I was a teaching, this makes me livid. It is a personal decision whether or not a woman wants to breastfeed her child and just because she returns to the workplace, does not mean that she needs to give up on giving her child a nutritious diet that she can provide. It it because of her pregnancy that she was able to produce the breast milk to feed her child.
Apparently Venters thinks the same and is now considering appealing the judge’s ruling. “I don’t understand the judge’s decision,” Venters told Reuters. “A child needs a mother and mother’s milk. It really isn’t fair and it is discrimination. I just hope the law will be changed.”
There was an amendment to another law that was changed in 2010 that required companies of more than 50 employees to allow a reasonable amount of time for nursing mothers to pump their breast milk.
Although Venter’s incident occurred a couple years prior to the amendment, she still has every right to appeal the judges decision. For the sake of nursing mother’s everywhere, I hope that Venters can get a ruling in her favor so that we never have to worry about being able to provide the appropriate nutrients for our children.
What do you think of Judge Hughes decision in the case?