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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge Tosses ‘Lactation Discrimination’ Claim

HOUSTON (CN) - A woman cannot claim she was fired for trying to pump breast milk at work in violation of sex-discrimination laws, a federal judge ruled.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a complaint against Houston Funding II and Houston Funding Corp. on behalf of Donnicia Venters.

When Venters went on maternity leave in December 2008, Houston Funding president Harry Cagle allegedly promised to save her a position.

But Cagle said "maybe she needs to stay home longer" when the general floor manager shared Venters' intention to possibly bring a breast pump to the office, according to the complaint.

Once Venters' doctor gave her the green light to return to work in February 2009, she allegedly asked Cagle about using a breast pump in a back room of the office

"While Cagle had been friendly at the beginning of the call, he paused for several seconds after she mentioned the breast pump, and then stated, 'well, we filled your spot,'" the complaint says.

Houston Funding claims Venters abandoned her job, but the commission says it was Venters' request to pump breast milk at work that led to her termination.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes sided with Houston Funding on Thursday, however, finding that "firing someone because of lactation or breast-pumping is not sex discrimination."

"Even if the company's claim that she was fired for abandonment is meant to hide the real reason - she wanted to pump breast-milk - lactation is not pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition," Hughes wrote.

"The law does not punish lactation discrimination," the three-page opinion states.

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