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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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Posted by on June 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Carolyn Filippone v. Rob Turner – Copy of Lawsuit

Exactly what does a federal lawsuit look like?  Below is a copy of the lawsuit that Carolyn Filippone filed against Rob Turner in his official capacity as the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser.  The allegations are short, simple and to the point.

Filippone v. Turner – Federal Complaint

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Sex Discrimination: EEOC and FedEx Settle Lawsuit

Laws against discrimination are designed to ensure that employment decisions are made without regard to an applicant or employee’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, or disability.  An employee that falls in any of these groups is considered to be in a protected category.  InFlorida, employees may pursue remedies under state law (i.e., the Florida Civil Rights Act) or federal law (under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act).

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a sex or gender discrimination lawsuit on behalf of three women who claimed that FedEx Freight Inc. hired a male employee over them.  According to their allegations, the company’s job posting indicated that a bachelor’s degree or related experience was required, as well as two years’ experience in human resources.  All three women met these requirements, while the male employee did not have a degree nor human resources experience.  FedEx agreed to settle this action for $115,000.

Questions regarding employment discrimination can be answered by contacting me, Rich Bradford, at (813) 413-2402.

Source: FedEx Freight to Pay $115,000 to Settle EEOC Sex Discrimination Suit

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Did Judge Get this Right? – Breastfeeding is Not Pregnancy Related

            In EEOC v. Houston Funding II, LTD, a Texas court considered whether an employer discriminated against a woman who asked to pump breast milk during breaks at work.  Ruling in favor of the employer, the district court concluded that the employee’s claims did not rise to the level of discrimination.
            Donnicia Venters worked for Houston Funding for approximately two years.  She took a leave of absence to give birth and a few days after delivery told the company VP that she was uncertain as to when she would return.  After this conversation, while Venters maintained contact with her coworkers, she did not make further contact with the VP.  About a month and a half later, the VP held a meeting with several employees and they discussed Venters’ return date.  Concluding that Venters did not intend to return, Houston Funding decided to terminate her employment.
            A few days later, Venters doctor released her to return to work.  When Venters reached the VP, she told him that she was ready to return and asked if she could use a back room during breaks to pump milk for her baby.  The VP told Venters that she had been fired because the company believed that she abandoned her job.
            The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit on Venters’ behalf claiming that the company discriminated against her in connection with her pregnancy.  The pregnancy discrimination allegations focused on Venters’ need to pump breast milk at work.
            The Texas judge entered summary judgment in favor of Houston Funding.  Summary judgment is a procedure that allows a judge to enter judgment in favor of one party without trial if the court concludes that the evidence to proceed to trial is lacking.  In reaching its conclusion, the court noted that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act did not cover Venters’ claims.  The court reasoned that lactation is not pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.  That is right…the court concluded lactation is not“a related medical condition” [to pregnancy].  The court further noted that after Venters gave birth, her pregnancy related conditions ended.
            This case generated some publicity over the last week, with no less than 275 newspaper articles or commentaries. While I admit to not reading all of the articles, I think it would be difficult to find an opinion piece in which the writer agreed with the judge.  It is worth noting, that about 3-4 other courts reached the same result when the issue was presented.
            Also, there has been a change in the law that protects some women who need to pump milk while at work.  In 2008, Congress amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to require employers to provide time for women to pump for up to 12 months following the birth of the child.  This new law, however, applies only to non-exempt employees and there are exceptions.
Additionally, I recommend the following articles/blogs for further thoughts on this subject:   Judge:Legally, breastfeeding not related to pregnancy by the Suzanne Lucas and Lactation Is Not Caused By Pregnancy or Childbirth, Says Judge by Donna Ballman.
Do you think the Texas Judge made the right decision?
 
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Posted by on February 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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