Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ohio Supreme Court Ruling Supports Workplace Discrimination Against Women

When LaNisa Allen was fired from her job at Totes/Isotoner inWest Chester, Ohio for taking a break to pump breastmilk she sued for discrimination citing Ohio laws preventing sex and pregnancy discrimination. However, her employer stated that her firing was not related to taking breaks to pump breast milk, but for failure to follow directions and taking an unauthorized break.

A trial court sided with Totes/Istoner stating;
“Allen gave birth over five months prior to her termination from [Isotoner]. Pregnant [women] who give birth and chose not to breastfeed or pump their breasts do not continue to lactate for five months. Thus, Allen’s condition of lactating was not a condition relating to pregnancy but rather a condition related to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding discrimination does not constitute gender discrimination.”

The Ohio Supreme Court stated that Allen’s lawyers did not provide enough evidence that Allen was treated differently than other employees who took restroom breaks for reasons other than pumping. So the Supreme Court failed to address the question of whether or not lactation discrimination is in fact pregnancy and/or sex discrimination.

Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton and two concurring justices wrote;
“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.”

Other Justices agreed with the ruling, however thought that the lactation discrimination issue should have been looked at. Justice Maureen O’Conner wrote the opinion for those justices.
“The lead opinion’s failure to address the legal framework in which this case arises is disappointing… the question of whether Ohio law recognizes discrimination claims based on lactation is of great general interest.”

Justice Paul Pfeifer wrote the dissenting opinion saying;
“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. 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.”

I don’t know you about you, but this case just makes me mad. First of all, it is quite interesting that Justice Pfeifer was the person to write the dissenting opinion supporting Allen and not one of the three women justices on the court. Also, although the court did not specifically address the issue of lactation discrimination, there is now a precedent in Ohio that firing women for issues relating to breastfeeding is not discrimination. How disturbing is that?

To me it is clear that issues concerning lactation are related to pregnancy and therefore should be included in pregnancy and sex discrimination. When is the last time you saw a man breastfeeding?

What do you think?

No comments:

Post a Comment