Court scraps breast-feeding mom’s discrimination suit because ‘men can lactate too’

This week, ACLU attorney Galen Sherwin wrote a blog post detailing the frustrating reasons why former Nationwide Insurance employee Angela Ames discrimination suit for breastfeeding, filed in 2012, was thrown out earlier this year.

Ames filed the suit in 2012, claiming that she faced obstacles to pumping breast milk at work following her maternity leave, which led to resign. According to case documents, on her first day back at work after eight weeks of maternity leave, she sought a place to pump to breastfeed every three hours.

According to Sherwin, the courts did not hear Ames’ case because they “found it irrelevant that Angela was supposed to take these additional steps while engorged and waiting for a pumping room that her employer told her wouldn’t be available for several days.”

According to Sherwin, bizarrely enough, the trial court also held “that even if Angela had been fired because she was breastfeeding that was not sex discrimination, in part because men can lactate under certain circumstances.”

“It should also be self-evident that firing someone because they are breastfeeding is still a form of sex discrimination, and one that is all-too-frequently experienced by new mothers,” Sherwin wrote.

Ames also alleged that a workplace supervisor referred her to a company nurse, who would not grant her access to the lactation room because she had not yet filled out the necessary paperwork, which required a three-day waiting period before it could be processed. Ames alleged that no one had informed her of this requirement for lactation room access.

At that point, Ames claimed she was “in considerable pain” and that her breasts were “engorged,” but when she asked for a private room to lactate, she claims her supervisor responded by dictating a resignation letter for her, and went so far as to tell her, “Maybe you should just stay home with your babies.” According to the lawsuit, Ames felt she had no other choice but to comply.

Prior to this incident, Ames alleged that another supervisor told her that she would face percussions if she did not make up two months of work in two weeks, and that she faced harassment for being pregnant and taking maternity leave at all.

Nationwide has denied the allegations that Ames was required to make up months of work in just two weeks, and her claim that her supervisor told her to go home and “be with her children.” The company also has responded that its lactation policy has always been available online but Ames did not ask any questions about it.