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Court Rules Title VII Does Not Prohibit “Lactation Discrimination”

Published by on March 12, 2012

On February 2, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas (Judge Lynn Hughes) ruled that lactation is not pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition under Title VII.  More after the break. In EEOC v. Houston Funding II, Ltd., the EEOC had filed a lawsuit on behalf of Donnicia Venters, a female […]

On February 2, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas (Judge Lynn Hughes) ruled that lactation is not pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition under Title VII.  More after the break.

In EEOC v. Houston Funding II, Ltd., the EEOC had filed a lawsuit on behalf of Donnicia Venters, a female employee of a debt collection firm in Houston, Texas.  After some post birth complications, the plaintiff contacted human resources to inform the company that she was ready to return to work and to inquire if she could use a back room to pump milk, as the new statute requires.  Venters was told that her job was filled.  She was later informed that her date of termination was the same date that she contacted the company about her return.

Section 4207, entitled “Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers,” amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).  The lactation statute requires employers to provide a place for mothers to express milk.  The law does not, however, provide any protections for employees if they get fired for actually expressing milk or intending to express milk. 

Thus, the lawsuit was brought by the EEOC for gender discrimination.  The Court found, however that “firing someone because of lactation or breast pumping is not sex discrimination.”    Further, according to the Court, the law does not punish lactation discrimination.  Therefore, Venters could not claim her termination was related to her gender and her claim was dismissed on summary judgment.

A copy of the decision can be found here.

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