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Fifth Circuit Rules Firing Breastfeeding Mom May be Discrimination

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently ruled that firing a woman because she is lactating or expressing milk is unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Equal Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) filed suit on behalf of Donnicia Venters against her former employer Houston Funding II, LLC.  The suit was based on the Pregnancy Discrimination Act because Venters alleged that her employer fired because she needed to breast feed her child.  (For background see:  Did Judge Get this Right? – Breastfeeding is Not Pregnancy Related).    The district court or trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Houston Funding II and the EEOC filed an appeal.

On appeal, the Fifth Circuit considered, “whether discharging a female employee because she is lactating or expressing breast milk constitutes sex discrimination in violation of Title VII.”  Reversing the district court, the Fifth Circuit answered the question in the affirmative.

The Court found that lactation is a physiological condition distinct to women who have undergone pregnancy.  Therefore, under Title VII and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, firing a woman because she is lactating or expressing milk is unlawful sex discrimination, since men as a matter of biology could not be fired for such a reason.  As a result of the Fifth Circuit’s decision, Ms. Venters will be able to have her day in court.

If you have questions about employment discrimination or labor and employment law, give Rich Bradford a call at (813) 413-2402.

 

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