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Former teacher and new mama Sarah Ann Lewis Boyle has sued a school district in California after her supervisor allegedly told Boyle she should train her breasts, “Not to make milk between the hours of 7 a.m. and 1 p.m.” so Boyle wouldn’t need time off to pump. If the allegations are true, this situation directly goes against California law, which states:
“Every employer, including the state and any political subdivision, shall provide a reasonable amount of break time to accommodate an employee desiring to express breast milk for the employee’s infant child.” AND “The employer shall make reasonable efforts to provide the employee with the use of a room or other location, other than a toilet stall, in close proximity to the employee’s work area, for the employee to express milk in private.”
In 2010, Boyle begin working for the Carmelo School. The trouble started after the birth of Boyle’s first child in September of 2011, when she was apparently denied the right to pump milk on breaks for her infant son. Boyle asked her supervisor for 15 to 20 minutes each day between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. to pump breast milk. However, as noted above, Boyle’s supervisor denied that request, telling Boyle she should train herself not to lactate by pushing, “Feedings further and further apart” thus teaching her newborn to not, “Desire feedings during that time period.”
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Boyle felt that denying her son food may starve her baby, so she spoke with her lactation consultant and then got a letter from her her child’s pediatrician, which highlighted why Boyle needed to be allowed time to pump breast milk. After that, the school’s senior director of human resources told Boyle that they would try to find a way that Boyle could pump at school for at least “2 to 3 days” a week. The lawsuit says that upon Boyle’s return to work, zero pumping accommodations had been made, forcing Boyle to pump breast milk while sitting in a small bathroom with the door half propped open so she could continue to watch the kids in her classroom. Long story short, Boyle received a negative review and was eventually fired, but by then her milk supply had decreased, requiring her to wean her son. The Monterey County Herald reports that Boyle filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and then received a “right to sue” letter on Oct. 25. Boyle is suing for various issues, including wrongful termination, failure to accommodate breast milk pumping, emotional distress and more.
Sad as this story sounds, pregnancy discrimination and other new mom discrimination tactics are commonplace in the USA. In fact, in 2011, a full 5,797 complaints were filed with EEOC alleging pregnancy discrimination – a 23% increase from 2005. Of course, not all discrimination is reported. The best thing you can do to avoid pregnancy and new parent discrimination is to be well informed of your rights. Learn about maternity leave rights in your area along with state breastfeeding laws. You do have breastfeeding rights, you just need to be prepared to advocate for them.