Recently the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that Title VII, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, protects nursing mothers from being fired for lactating or expressing breast milk. The plaintiff was allegedly fired after asking to use a breast pump at work. In reaching its decision the Court held that firing someone because of lactation or breast pumping is sex discrimination.
This is a big victory for the EEOC, who brought the case on behalf of the plaintiff. This win also highlights one of the EEOC’s priorities in its Strategic Enforcement Plan, which is to identify emerging areas in equal employment law, including pregnancy-related issues.
Most employers know that the Fair Labor Standards Act was amended in 2010 to require them to provide both a reasonable break time and a place, other than a bathroom, for an employee to express breast milk for up to a year after a child’s birth. The Fifth Circuit has now made it clear that Title VII also protects employees who are fired for expressing breast milk.