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Ohio Supreme Court: Company Didn’t Discriminate Against Mom Who Pumped At Work

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Earlier this year I wrote about the case of an Ohio mom, LaNisa Allen, who said that her employer Totes/Isotoner discriminated against her when she was fired for needing to pump at work. She had a 5 month old baby.
This week the Ohio Supreme Court took the company’s side. From the AP:

The high court ruled Thursday that LaNisa Allen failed to prove outerwear manufacturer Totes/Isotoner Corp. violated Ohio’s Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
The court upheld a lower court’s ruling that said Allen was fired for taking an extra break that wasn’t authorized. Allen acknowledged in a deposition she had taken breaks without her employer’s knowledge.

My first reaction to this case was, how truly disappointing. Breastfeeding is part of pregnancy. It’s what happens naturally after giving birth. We don’t, after all, spontaneously lactate without having a baby. So how could the justices conclude that needing to pump, in other words to breastfeed, is not part of pregnancy?
When I read the court’s decision, however, I can see what happened. Basically, the court decided that Allen didn’t prove in the lower court that she was fired because she was pumping. Instead, her employer argued that Allen didn’t follow orders about her break times when she was pumping, and Allen admitted this was the case. So, in the end, the Ohio Supreme Court actually avoided the larger question of whether lactation is protected by state pregnancy discrimination laws. (Note that Ohio does have a law protecting the right to breastfeed in public). Here’s an excerpt from the court’s decision, which you can find within this Wall Street Journal article:

{¶ 6} In this case, the evidence in the record demonstrates that Allen
took unauthorized breaks from her workstation, and Isotoner discharged her for
doing so. Thus, the record as it was developed in the trial court fails to provide a
basis from which a jury could conclude that Isotoner’s articulated legitimate,
nondiscriminatory reason for Allen’s termination—failure to follow directions—
was a pretext for discrimination based on Allen’s pregnancy or a condition related
to her pregnancy. This determination defeats Allen’s sex-discrimination claim
under R.C. 4112.02 as a matter of law, and, accordingly, the trial court properly
granted summary judgment to Isotoner. Consequently, this court does not reach
the issue of whether alleged discrimination due to lactation is included within the
scope of Ohio’s employment-discrimination statute, R.C. 4112.02, as sex
discrimination under R.C. 4112.01(B).

And yet, the one judge who dissented in this case, really gets at the core of what’s going on. He wrote that he court missed an opportunity to clarify the state law and indicate that lactation is in fact protected. Here’s a quote from the dissent:

{¶ 54} We accept cases not necessarily because of how the result might
affect the parties in the individual case, but because of how a holding might affect
other persons similarly situated. Ohio’s working mothers who endure the
uncomfortable sacrifice of privacy that almost necessarily accompanies their
attempt to remain on the job and nourish their children deserve to know whether
Ohio’s pregnancy-discrimination laws protect them.
{¶ 55} I would hold in this case that employment discrimination due to
lactation is unlawful pursuant to R.C. 4112.01(B), that clear public policy justifies
an exception to the employment-at-will doctrine for women fired for reasons
relating to lactation, and that LaNisa Allen deserves the opportunity—due to the
state of the record—to prove her claim before a jury.

So bottom line… here’s what I have to say. I need new gloves. I have a random collection of mismatched right hand gloves. Isotoner, I’m shopping elsewhere.

Celebrity Breastfeeding Stories

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TV Guide has a round-up of some celebrity breastfeeding stories. Here’s the link. Despite the slightly snarky tone, I enjoy seeing public figures talk about breastfeeding, and essentially encouraging other moms to breastfeed.
Read the piece to learn about Angelina Jolie, Naomi Watts, Gwen Stefani, Mary-Louise Parker, Salma Hayek, Kate Beckinsale, Elizabeth Hasselback, Sherri Shepherd, Kourtney Kardashian and Kendra Wilkinson.

I’ll Be on Tonight at 8 pm ET

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Here’s the link to the site where I’ll be chatting live at 8 pm ET tonight with Chicmommyusa. Not sure exactly how this will work technically… I’m sort of a luddite. But it has something to do with the live streaming site Stickam. Join in.
Now… about washing my hair and finding some makeup!

California Company Fined For Firing Mom Who Breastfed

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A California taqueria has to pay $46k to a worker it fired for breastfeeding. Here’s the piece in Forbes. And here’s the story in the San Francisco Chronicle:
Marina Chavez gave birth to her fourth child a month prematurely in April 2007 and returned to work at a Los Angeles-area taqueria 30 days later, needing the $7.55-an-hour cashier job to feed her family.
On her third night back, her boyfriend brought their newborn son to work and Chavez breastfed the child in their car during her lunch break.
The next night, she got a call from the company’s general manager, Jaime Acosta, who, according to a state civil rights commission, told her he didn’t want her back at work until she was done breastfeeding. When Chavez said she couldn’t wait that long, Acosta replied that he didn’t like her attitude and she was fired, the commission said.
Her dismissal has led to a precedent-setting ruling by the state Fair Employment and Housing Commission in San Francisco. The decision, made public last week, said punishing a female employee for breastfeeding during a work break amounts to sex discrimination…
That isn’t what happened, Acosta said Friday. He said he fired Chavez for incompetence and insubordination, an assertion he also made to the commission, which didn’t believe him.
“I did not fire her because she was breastfeeding,” he said in an interview. “I just made a comment to her – ‘Is it safe to be out here in the parking lot?’ ” If the law requires employers to allow breastfeeding, he said, “I have no problem with that.”
Acosta said the small company, which owns three taquerias in Inglewood and Hawthorne, would appeal the ruling, but might have to file for bankruptcy because of the damage award.
A 2002 California law requires employers to provide a reasonable amount of break time for an employee who wants to breastfeed an infant child, unless a break would seriously disrupt the employer’s operations. California also allows a mother to breastfeed her child “in any location, public or private.”
No state court or agency had previously considered, however, whether denying the right to breastfeed amounts to sex discrimination. Awarding damages to an employee in such a case is rare if not unprecedented in the United States, said Loretta McCallister, spokeswoman for La Leche League, a support organization for breastfeeding women.
“That’s teaching employers that there’s nothing wrong with it,” she said.

Hooray For An Enlightened NYC Radio Station… 1010 WINS

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Gotta love the radio station 1010 Wins in New York City for doing a piece on some of the stumbling blocks women face when breastfeeding. Bettina Forbes, of the group Best For Babes, was interviewed for the story. She calls these problems “booby traps.”
Click here: Download file
Also, here’s Best For Babes latest ad, appearing just in time for August, which is Breastfeeding Awareness Month.
ZWIN PUB 08-06953 Mom and Baby-BfB_Life Saving(2).jpg

Breastfeeding Linked to Lower Risk of Breast Cancer

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From today’s New York Times, the results of a new study:
There is new evidence that breast-feeding is associated with a lower incidence of breast cancer among a group of younger women who are at particularly high risk: those with breast cancer in the family.
Although several studies have found that lactation is protective against breast cancer, the new report found little effect for premenopausal women over all. But for women with an immediate relative, like a mother or a sister, who had breast cancer, those who breast-fed had a 59 percent lower risk of premenopausal breast cancer. That is closer in line with the risk for women who had no disease in the family, the study found.

Statue of Angelina Jolie Breastfeeding

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Remember the photos of Angelina Jolie breastfeeding in W Magazine? Well a sculptor has taken this to a new level. He’s created a sculpture of Angelina breastfeeding her twins.
From ABC news:
Controversial celebrity sculptor Daniel Edwards has unveiled his latest work: a park-bench-sized statue of Angelina Jolie in the nude, double breastfeeding her twins. This artistic work of public indecency (she’s not wearing pants!) is called “Landmark for Breastfeeding” and was inspired by Jolie’s cover photograph on W magazine last year. Edwards decided that, in order to encourage more women to breastfeed and to raise global awareness of public nursing, he would depict one twin as African-American and the other as not, since that could totally happen in the real world. Beginning September 11, at Mainsite Contemporary Art Museum in Norman, Oklahoma, the piece will be on display, before it’s whisked off to an exhibition in London.

A Breastfeeding Doll

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All I have to say is, it’s about time. Every doll I’ve ever seen has a bottle. Now, at long last, we have a doll that “breastfeeds.” It’s called Bebe Gloton and is made by a Spanish company called Berjuan. Here’s a demonstration video:

ABC News says the doll is creating a bit of an “uproar.” And some of the ladies on The View aren’t big fans. But really, what’s the harm? And isn’t it best that kids learn how nature intended us to feed our young?

Updated: Contest for a Medela Nightime Nursing Bra

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UPDATE: And the winner, picked by the folks from Medela, is….Elita. Here’s her comment from below: That bra does look comfy. My favorite nighttime nursing memory was once when I was breastfeeding my son in the glider and he was just asleep when my husband walked into the room and woke him up. I tried to “shush” him and rock him back down, but he sat straight up and screamed “Dadadooooo!” He had never said that before and it just struck us as really funny and we started laughing and then he started laughing too.
Would you like a chance to win this lovely blue, nighttime nursing bra made by Medela? It looks so soft, it almost makes me nostalgic for those 3 a.m. feedings!
Medela is offering 3 moms a chance to win this bra in recognition of World Breastfeeding Week. So what do you need to do? Leave a comment telling me your favorite nighttime nursing story. And if you’re still pregnant, leave a comment about either a crazy dream you’ve had while pregnant, or how you’re managing to sleep at night.
The contest runs from August 1st to the 15th. I’ll announce a winner on the 16th. (Only entries from the U.S. please).