No Pump Breaks for Breast-Milk Donor

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Marriott International refuses to let an employee take breaks to pump breast milk because she is a surrogate and the milk is not for her biological child, the woman claims in Federal Court.
     Mary Gonzales sued Marriott International Inc. and Marriott Hotel Services Inc. dba Los Angeles Airport Marriott on May 1.
     Gonzales works for the LAX Marriott as a general accountant and cashier, according to the 17-page complaint.
     She says she “has a great passion for helping infertile individuals and couples build their families through surrogacy.”
     Gonzales says she was pregnant from August 2013 until April 22, 2014, when she gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
     When she came back from pregnancy leave that June, Gonzales says, she took two 30-minute breaks each day to pump breast milk in a special lactation room set up for female employees. These breaks were in additional to her regular 30-minute lunch break, according to the complaint.
     Gonzales pumped the milk and shipped it to the child’s mother for approximately two weeks until the women agreed to end their arrangement due to “logistical concerns about the safety of the shipments,” the complain states.
     The woman says she continued pumping the milk for personal health reasons and to donate it to Preemies Milk Bank and other charities.
     But soon after her surrogacy ended, Gonzales’ supervisor, Bill Dea, told her she had to stop taking lactation breaks, according to the complaint.
     Gonzales says she met with John Masamori, LAX Marriott’s market director of human resources, and told him she had the legal right to take lactation breaks under the Fair Employment and Housing Act.
     “During this meeting, Mr. Masamori appeared angry and dismissive, telling Ms. Gonzales ‘if you had rights, we’d be talking to your lawyer,’ the complaint states.
     Gonzales met with Masamori again and offered to bring in a doctor’s note, but he told her “don’t bother” and insisted she had no right to take lactation breaks because the milk was not for her own child, according to the complaint.
     Marriott’s refusal to let Gonzales take lactation breaks has forced her to use her 30-minute lunch break to pump milk. This made her feel “ostracized” from her co-workers and forced her to use one of her 10-minute breaks to eat lunch, according to the complaint.
     Gonzales also suffers from “clogged ducts, severe breast pain and soreness, blisters, and loss of sleep in order to express milk at night, to accommodate her inability to do so during the workday,” the complaint adds.
     Jeff Flaherty with Marriott’s global corporate relations declined comment, saying the company had yet to receive a copy of the lawsuit.
     Gonzales’ attorney Julia Campins told Courthouse News that the point of the lawsuit is not to extend existing law to surrogate mothers, but to clarify how it already applies to them.
     “We believe surrogates have several of the same rights as biological mothers,” she said.
     If they prevail on the matter, “it would clarify that existing laws do cover these types of situations,” Campins said.
     Gonzales seeks a declaration that Marriott’s refusal to let her take lactation breaks violates the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
     She also wants compensatory damages for pregnancy discrimination, failure to accommodate a pregnancy-related condition and gender discrimination.
     She is represented by Julia Campins with Campins, Benham-Baker LLP of San Francisco.

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