Breast-feeding mother can sue employer

New mothers needing a private space to pump breast milk for their newborns is a reality of an increasingly modern workplace. Some employers or co-workers might be uncomfortable with this, but the law is likely to come down on the mothers’ side.

Take the case of a mother in Texas who wanted to go back to work as an account rep at a debt collection agency after staying home with her new baby for several months. During conversations prior to her return, she told her bosses that she would like permission to use a back room to express breast milk after she came back. The bosses apparently hemmed and hawed about her request, and once she received medical clearance to return, they told her someone else had filled her position.

When the employee sued, the company claimed that even if it did fire the woman because of the breast-pumping issue, this wasn’t against the law.

But a federal appeals court in New Orleans sided with the woman. It said that firing someone over breast-pumping could be sex discrimination. In addition, it could be disability discrimination, since lactation is considered a medical condition related to pregnancy under the Americans with Disabilities Act.