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The mother of a 5-month old baby was fired for taking unscheduled breaks to pump at work (she worked for Isotoner)... And an Ohio appeals court said that's OK.  That's it is not discriminatory to fire someone for reasons related to breastfeeding.

According to this blog post, here's the background:

[LaNissa Allen] was fired after taking unscheduled breaks from work to pump milk. She fed her five-month-old baby before reporting to work for her 6 a.m. shift, but found waiting until her scheduled 11 a.m. break to pump milk was too difficult. Any breastfeeding mother could relate to the discomfort and leakage Ms. Allen said she was experiencing.

Ms. Allen asked her bosses either to let her take an extended break at 10 a.m., or to extend a brief 10-minute break she was allowed at 8 a.m., to allow her time to pump, but neither request was granted. After suffering for several days, Ms. Allen began taking an unscheduled restroom break around 10 a.m. every day to use her breast pump, court papers show. A supervisor told her she was violating work rules by not waiting until her 11 a.m. break, and she was later fired.

The Ohio Court of Appeals for Butler County, said it's ok for her employer to fire her... Because apparently Allen failed to offer evidence that the employer was motivated by discrimination to fire her (because, of course, if a male employee took unscheduled breaks to pump he would have been fired, too). Wait. What?
Read decision here
. (If you do, pay particular attention to J O'Connor's concurring opinion.)

The Ohio appeals court sidestepped the real question -- As Salon.com says: "Ergo, the court decided not to bother addressing the thornier question of whether lactation counts as a pregnancy-related condition, which would be protected under the state's anti-discrimination laws."

The trial court stated (quoted by O'Connor in concurring opinion)::
"Allen gave birth over five months prior to her termination from [Isotoner]. Pregnant [women] who give birth and chose not to breastfeed or pump their breasts do not continue to lactate for five months. Thus, Allen’s condition of lactating was not a condition relating to pregnancy but rather a condition related to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding discrimination does not constitute gender discrimination."
The appeals court majority opinion chose not to opine on that part of the trial court's reasoning...

Other interesting blog posts covering this court decision here and here.

Oh, and feel free to express your feelings about Isotoner's support of breastfeeding by sending them a message - either written (here) or with your wallet.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 1st, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC)
I don't really see the problem with firing her actually. If something is getting in the way of a person doing their job, no matter what it is, I think employers should be able to find someone who can do the requirements. Sure, her employers could have been more understanding, but if they want to stick to their break policy then why shouldn't they?
Sep. 1st, 2009 07:24 pm (UTC)
Seems like some really bad publicity for the company at least.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )



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