New York, NY, June 12, 2014 – In a landmark ruling issued June 5, the federal court for the Southern District of New York held that federal law bars employers from discriminating against employees who breastfeed on the job.
Earlier this year, Legal Momentum filed to intervene on behalf of four female sheet metal workers in a lawsuit filed against Vamco Sheet Metals, Inc., a New York-based construction company that manufactures and installs sheet metal. The lawsuit was originally filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in September of last year, after the agency’s investigation concluded that the company had discriminated against its female employees. The investigation was prompted by the charges filed by four women, each of whom reported being terminated from her job due to her sex.
Legal Momentum’s court papers also noted that one of the women reported being discharged by the construction company after she notified her supervisor that she was a nursing mother in need of time and space to express milk for her child.
In their court papers opposing Legal Momentum’s intervention, defendants argued that the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act does not protect employees who are terminated after requesting breastfeeding-related accommodations. The Magistrate Judge disagreed, ruling that employers who take adverse employment action against nursing employees may be found to violate the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
“We are particularly pleased that the court made this decision even though construction sites are nontraditional work settings,” said Carol Robles-Roman, Legal Momentum’s President and CEO. “We hope that this ruling will encourage other employers to find creative solutions to accommodate their nursing employees, and we intend to work with them to help them comply with the law.”
Last year, Fifth Circuit was the first court to find that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act protects female workers from being discharged for requesting accommodations to breastfeed. Only a handful of rulings nationwide have addressed the issue since, leaving the scope of workplace protections for breastfeeding mothers largely unclear.
”This is the first ruling that expressly protects breastfeeding mothers’ workplace rights in this Circuit,” said Jelena Kolic, Legal Momentum’s staff attorney. “We hope that other courts will follow suit to safeguard breastfeeding mothers against workplace discrimination.”
The full text of Magistrate Judge’s ruling affirmed by the District Court can be found at Legal Momentum’s website at https://www.legalmomentum.org/resources/magistrate-judges-ruling-motion-intervene-vamco.
About Legal Momentum
Legal Momentum is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1970 to advance the rights of women across the nation by using the power of the law and creating innovative public policy in three broad areas: economic justice, freedom from gender-based violence, and equality under the law. Successful initiatives include judicial education programs on the realities of sexual assault, domestic violence, and their intersection; successful advocacy for the Violence Against Women Act and for expanded protections for Native American and other survivors of violence in its 2013 reauthorization; and representing women who have been subjected to workplace pregnancy and gender discrimination with precedent-setting litigation. For more information, visit www.legalmomentum.org.