In a curious decision, a judge in Texas has ruled that a woman who was fired after she asked for a place in the office to pump her breast milk was not discriminated against. Donnicia Venters was working at a debt collection agency called Houston Funding in 2008 when she gave birth to a daughter. As she was about to come back from maternity leave, she asked the company's vice president for a private place in the office to pump her breast milk, and she was suddenly told her position had been filled. She then got a back-dated termination notice a week later, which cited "job abandonment" as the cause.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took her case to court, but a judge just dismissed the case saying she was not discriminated against because of pregnancy—which would be a violation of the Civil Rights Act. According to Judge Lynn Hughes, "She gave birth on December 11, 2008. After that day, she was no longer pregnant, and her pregnancy-related conditions had ended." So, in the eyes of the law people just spontaneously begin producing breast milk, and it has no connection to a pregnancy? And what about the health consequences for the mother (not to mention the baby) faces if she's unable to pump when she needs to? That is all kinds of wrong.
Venters was understandably frustrated, saying, "I don't understand the judge's decision. A child needs a mother and mother's milk. It really isn't fair and it is discrimination. I just hope the law will be changed." Unfortunately for Venters, she was fired before an amendment to another law was made in 2010 that requires companies to provide break time and a private place for mothers to pump milk. Venters' lawyer is considering appealing the decision.
Image via mrfiza/Shutterstock.