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Can Texas employers discriminate against breast-feeding mothers?

Here in San Antonio, Texas, and throughout the country employees have the right to work without discrimination or harassment based on a number of things. These include race, gender, nationality, age and disability, among other factors. Twenty-five years ago, pregnancy was added to this list with Title VII, but employment law professionals still struggle with the scope of this protection.

For example, a current case that is making its way through the court system involves a Houston woman who was fired after she asked her employer if she could use the backroom to pump breast milk. The case has been called 'The Great Texas Lactation Case.'

The mother originally sued her employer, a debt collection agency, on the grounds of sex discrimination, but a U.S. district judge ruled that firing someone because of her need to pump breast milk was not sex discrimination.

The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission has filed an appeal on the woman's behalf. According to workforce.com, the EEOC stated: "firing a female worker because she is lactating ... imposes a burden on that female worker that a comparable male employee simply could never suffer. That is the essence of sex discrimination."

The results of the case could have a major implication on employment law, and could even add "lactation" to the list of protected classes mentioned in the introduction of this post.

Some states, such as California, already count lactation as a pregnancy-related condition, and therefore it is covered under anti-pregnancy discrimination laws.

As of 2010, the Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to provide break time for mothers to pump breast milk for up to one year after a child's birth. However, the woman in this case was fired in 2008.

Both the Texas Medical Association and the Texas Pediatric Society have supported the EEOC's appeal, but the outcome of this case remains to be seen.

Source: Workforce.com, " 'Great Texas Lactation Case' Debates Whether Breast-Milk Pumping Is a Pregnancy Related Condition," Matthew Heller, Aug. 23, 2012

  • Our San Antonio law firm handles workplace discrimination cases. To learn more about our firm, please visit our employment law website.

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