Donnicia Venters worked for Houston Funding, and had for over a year when she gave birth, in 2007. The company had no maternity leave policy.
Ms. Venters claims that she planned to come back to work and had maintained contact with her fellow employees, although not her boss. Her position was that everything was fine until she asked if she could use a back room to pump. Suddenly, things were not okay and she was fired. The EEOC agreed that this was a case of pregnancy and/or sex discrimination.
The company maintains she was terminated for job abandonment, as she hadn’t kept in contact with her supervisor.
The case didn’t even make it to court because the judge ruled that even if Ms. Venters is correct and they fired her because she intended to pump milk at the office, that the law does not protect lactation as it’s not related to pregnancy or childbirth.
Even though the decision was handed down last week, it was based on the laws in 2008, when the firing occurred. Since then, Congress has amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to require employers to provide time for women to pump for up to 12 months after the birth of a child. You may think that this case is completely irrelevant to you, but not necessarily. This law only applies to non-exempt employees and there are exceptions even then.
Twenty four states have laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace, but if you work in one of the other 26 and are an exempt employee, you may have no protection at all.