Courts: Nursing Mom's Firing Isn't Sexist— Men Can Lactate

Supreme Court won't overturn lower ruling
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Feb 4, 2015 11:21 AM CST
A baby sleeps in the arms of his mother after a mass breastfeeding in celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, in Thessaloniki, Greece Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013. Mothers breast fed their babies in the 4th...   (AP Photo/Nikolas Giakoumidis)

(Newser) – When a woman took legal action over a reported firing linked to breastfeeding, courts dismissed the move—in part because men are capable of lactating, the Raw Story reports. Now, the Supreme Court is letting that dismissal stand. "The court's reasoning in this case echoes old Supreme Court pronouncements that discriminating against pregnant women at work isn't sex discrimination because both men and women can be non-pregnant," writes Gale Sherwin of the ACLU, noting that "Congress long ago rejected this ridiculous reasoning." Angela Ames took action against Nationwide Insurance after she came back from maternity leave and had no place to pump milk, the ACLU reports. An office "lactation room" apparently required paperwork that took three days to process. Instead, the company nurse said, Ames could use a sick room, but she'd have to wait until it was free, writes Sherwin.

In the meantime, her supervisor said that she'd need to get all the work she missed done within two weeks to avoid facing discipline, Sherwin writes. As Ames grappled with pain in her breasts, which had started to leak, she talked to her department head, who suggested that she "just go home and be with (her) babies." Ultimately, the department head dictated a letter of resignation for Ames to sign, Sherwin notes. In dismissing the case, courts held that Ames hadn't taken proper internal action before resigning and hadn't technically been fired. A trial court deemed the "be with your babies" comment was gender-neutral, Sherwin adds. While the department head was a woman, the federal appeals court that rejected discrimination claims, MSNBC notes, was made up of three men. (Delta recently apologized over a breast-pump mishap.)

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