• Thu, Nov 15 2012

Teacher Sues School District Over Breastfeeding Discrimination After They Suggested She ‘Train’ Her Boobs

It’s hard getting a newborn baby on a feeding schedule. I nursed all of my kids, and at times I felt that it is all I did. Nurse, baby falls asleep, change baby, nurse, baby falls asleep. Multiply times a gazillion. I didn’t work outside the home when I was breastfeeding, so I’ve always had huge amounts of sympathy and admiration for moms who had to schedule their babies feedings and pump and package their breast milk and deal with leakage and swelling and all of the other factors that breastfeeding moms have to deal with when they can’t nurse on demand. Sarah Ann Lewis Boyle, a former California school teacher has accused school officials in a lawsuit for failing to accommodate her breastfeeding schedule.

From The Huffington Post:

Boyle says before returning to work, she told a manager at the school that she would need about 15 minutes every day between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. to pump her breasts.

Boyle claims the manager told her to train her breast not to make milk then, and the district made no accommodations to allow her to feed her newborn. According to Boyle, she later received a negative evaluation and was urged to resign.

 

It sure sounds like breastfeeding discrimination to me. And who was this school official who decided to mommy-shame Boyle into “training” her breasts not to produce milk at a certain time? Talk about bad advice. I don’t think requesting a fifteen minute break in order to pump breast milk is that absurd of a request, and one would think that a school would be a bit more understanding towards a parent who just wanted to feed her kid, considering that um, schools are directly involved with children. Who were at one point babies. Who in some cases consumed breast milk.

It’s so weird that in this day and age that moms are still even encountering breastfeeding discrimination. If a new mom returns to work when she is still nursing she should have the time and privacy to be able to deal with her milk production without having to worry about losing her job over it or even having someone get in their face with their bad breastfeeding advice. I wish all of us had magical boobs that functioned like soda dispensers where we could turn our milk production on and off on demand, but sometimes it isn’t so easy and sometimes it results in painful conditions like mastitis.

Until we have magical robot breastfeeding boobs than employers need to realize that moms who nurse need to be able to pump their milk when away from their babies. They aren’t doing it to be difficult or to mess up their job performance or to cause hardships for anyone else in their places of employment, they just need to be able to feed their kids. If men breastfed they would have sexy, modernist breastfeeding lounges in workplaces with comfy recliners and delicious snacks and beverages to help them with milk production. It would be just like upper-class boarding lounges in airports. With free shoulder massages. And butlers carrying silver trays piled with cupcakes and pita chips and hummus. And a lactation consultant. And free breast milk storage supplies. And plasma screen televisions showing first-run movies. And breast milk pumping stations for everyone!

Someone totally needs to hire me to design breastfeeding lounges for companies. That way these breastfeeding discrimination lawsuits wouldn’t happen. I’m totally ready to get on it. You know where to contact me.
(photo: Olga Popova/Shutterstock)

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  • Venessa

    This brings up the interesting question of how teachers usually manage this situation? I hope most if not all schools are accommodating and this is just a rare occurrence. If we have teachers here, I would love to hear an honest opinion of what the standard practice is and if they have teaching assistants/subs to help them out.

    • Justme

      My school had no problem accommodating me. I teach in a middle school and used my conference period in the afternoon and about 20 minutes in the morning. I had a co-worker cover my locker room duty (I coach PE) at the end of one class and the beginning of another and I had the passing period in between. It was totally a NON issue.

    • Wendy

      You’re lucky. I also teach at a middle school, but my free period is first thing in the morning one day, and right before school’s out the next. So it was kind of useless to pump; I’d either just left the baby or was just about to go back home. While I probably could have found someone to cover my class twenty min. or so in the middle of the day, it would have been a pain…they’d have lost part of their plan consistently so that I could pump, and there’s no good place to do it. My classroom would have had a class in it (that’d go over well!) and the teacher lounge is full of other people eating lunch/going in and out, has no lock, and a big glass door. Standing in the bathroom is awkward and just gross, and I wouldn’t want to tie up the teacher bathroom on our floor for that long. I ended up weaning during the day, and partly feeding formula. Not ideal. My lactation consultant said that this was often the case with middle/high school teachers.

    • Robyn

      I just started back to work less than a month ago and my principal has no problem. He told me to work out whatever schedule I needed for pumping and let him know. I have two rooms I can go to for pumping. I know I’m lucky because at my old school I would have been in the bathroom. I could pump 3x a day if I wanted but I’m able to get in 2 good sessions. The parents in my class (elementary) actually went to the principal w/o my knowledge to be sure I would have a place. I’m the exception I know.

  • TheLily

    The moment someone says “train” in regards to a natural thing like this needs to be shot. or be given hormone shots until they start lactating. It’s kinda like telling a boy going through puberty to keep from getting his random boner – it’s not going to happen! I just… Wow.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      Except that if she’s pumping on a schedule, that implies that her breasts are, indeed, “trained”, and can thus be re-trained.

      Also, medical fact, mammary tissue produces milk in response to demand.

    • Lou

      Medical fact: a woman’s breasts produce milk according to her baby’s FEEDING SCHEDULE. Not because that’s her body’s magical arbitrary “I feel like lactating now!” schedule.

      Working mothers have every right to choose how their babies are fed. If that means breastfeeding at work, then that means breastfeeding at work. Your irrational dismissal of working mothers’ issues just contributes to society’s dismissal of women’s issues – maybe she should just stay in the kitchen and have more babies, because that’s what women are for, right? Can’t have a job AND a baby, nope!

      I’m childfree. If I decide to have children – a decision which is just as much my right as the decision to remain childfree – I will do my best to breastfeed exclusively for as long as I can and still sustain a healthy rate of growth for my baby. I would also like to resume working once my baby is old enough. You’re saying that I have to choose one or the other – and if you’re the same “wmdkitty” on STFUParents, I ask you this: how can you denigrate women for focusing solely on their children while contributing to the societal prejudices that often leave them no other choice?

  • http://twitter.com/MamaHasSnacks Carinn Jade

    Ah, the age old breast training. I am no longer nursing but do you think they could learn a parlor trick or two?

  • trixiya

    i don’t know how the moms in the US do it with only three months of mat leave.
    in canada, we have a year (if we’re not self-employed, which i am but can make my own schedule), and that doesn’t even seem like enough time.
    my sympathies extend to all of the US working moms with newborns and i must say, so does my admiration.

    • adrag

      ONLY 3 months? Most of us are lucky if we get 6 weeks, unpaid.

    • cady

      And you have to work full-time at a company with at least 40 employees to even get the guaranteed unpaid time off.

    • C.J.

      I’m Canadian also.I think that just doesn’t seem fair for woman to have to go back to work that soon. Many women aren’t even healed enough to go back to work after 6 weeks. Being a working mom in the US sounds very difficult. Trixiya might have had the mat leave time wrong but I agree with the sentiment. I don’t know how the mom’s in the US manage this.

    • http://www.facebook.com/helen.donovan.31 Helen Donovan

      While I would like it if women could stay out at least 12 weeks I don’t see it as any more unfair to moms than to those who have to do the mother’s work for 12 weeks. I don’t say this to dump on moms, but to point out that to make maternity leave work here we need to have adequate provision for extra help or at least extra money for those doing more work. I run a small dept. of 5 people and when one woman had her baby (in May – our slower time) she took the 12 week and boy, was I glad when she came back! I wouldn’t expect her to do any different if she has a 2nd child, and for her sake wish she could have more time. However, much more than 12 weeks, particularly if it was our busy time, would really “kill” the rest of us. Sucks a full 360.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    This is not discrimination. She isn’t being told she “can’t” pump at all, she’s being asked to pump at times that will not interfere with her job.

    Taking 15 minutes “between 9:00 and 11:00″ cuts directly into class time, and therefore impacts the education of all of her students in that time period. That’s 30 kids, and her #1 priority during the school day should be those children in her care. It is entirely reasonable and not at all discriminatory to ask her to wait and pump on her lunch break.

    On another note, breasts can in fact be “trained”. The body learns to produce less or more milk based on demand, and interprets frequent pumping as “high demand”, and therefore produces more milk. Less frequent pumping will result in less milk, and therefore less pain, less swelling, and less risk of mastitis.

    Her lawsuit is entirely frivolous, and deserves to be laughed out of the courtroom.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=592188905 Bran Chesterton

      Here’s the problem: she gave them warning that for 15 minutes during a 2 hour period, she would need to breastfeed. As some other commenters pointed out, their free period could come first thing in the morning or right before school lets out, which would make the break for pumping pointless. She asked for reasonable accommodation and she didn’t get it. That right there is grounds enough for a lawsuit. I honestly think unless there’s specific cases to the contrary, it could survive summary judgment; whether or not the accommodation was reasonable and whether providing that break would have “seriously disrupt the operations of the employer” is an genuine issue of material fact to be decided by a jury. Not something that should be laughed out of court.

      Second, even if that issue doesn’t make it, the fact that she was denied the break and then subsequently given a negative evaluation and asked to resign is a HUGE no-no. Retaliation at its most pure. The district will need to fight the assumption that this was a retaliatory act to punish her for asking for reasonable accommodations – the burden of proof will be on them to prove it wasn’t.

      So no, I don’t agree that it’s a throwaway case, nor should it be.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      The thing about accommodations is that they have to be REASONABLE. Taking 15 minutes out of class time is not, by any definition of the word, “reasonable”, as it IS interfering with the operations (teaching kids) of her employer (the school).

      She was rightfully told “No.” It is neither unreasonable nor illegal to request or require that a teacher take care of non-emergency personal business (which pumping most certainly is) OUTSIDE OF CLASS TIME. In fact, she could easily have pumped on her lunch break, which would not have disrupted or cut back on learning time.

      Also, keep in mind we’re only getting HER half of the story — there is ZERO evidence that the negative evaluation and requested resignation were/are linked to her pumping breast milk.

      So, until the facts come out, please refrain from jumping on the “OMG, Mommies r so PERSECUTED” bandwagon.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=592188905 Bran Chesterton

      Actually, I wasn’t jumping on any persecuted mommy bandwagon, I was using my lawyering expertise to explain why this plaintiff’s case isn’t deserving of being “laughed out of court” as you put it. You’re right, we don’t know the entire situation, but neither does the court. Like I said, her negative evaluation post asking for a legal accommodation is suspect, whether or not it was related to the issue. It will be FIGHTING a presumption that it was related, particularly in a jury’s eyes, if it gets there. I don’t think it will because most cases settle, but her claims aren’t laughable, and the “reasonable” in reasonable accommodation isn’t the crux of the statute in her state – it’s would arranging for her 15 minute break SERIOUSLY disrupt the operations of the employer.

  • Rachel A

    Oh cry me a bloody river. You made the choice to have a kid. When you take your 15 minute breaks. other workers have to step in to fill in for your absence. We’ve already covered for you during your 3 month absence on maternity break There’s this wonderful thing called forumla. Use it.

    • Amy S

      Wow. You’re exactly the kind of person I’d never want to run into in meatspace.

  • Vikky

    If the school district is an employer with more than X employees (the # varies by state, but they usually ARE), then the LAW states that they have to accommodate the breast-feeding mother. It doesn’t matter what her job is or what she does. This is the LAW and school districts are not exempt. If they break this labor law, what will they break next?

    • http://www.facebook.com/helen.donovan.31 Helen Donovan

      “Accommodate” does not mean do whatever the mother wants. It does mean providing a reasonable amount of time and a location but it does not mean when ever the mother wants. Also, the employer can require that break time be used and does not have to pay for any additional time.

  • K.

    If the mother rejects the claim that breasts can be “trained,” ie, that the milk isn’t coming in on some sort of schedule, then she can’t turn around and request a specific time period during which to pump. That would suggest that her milk is coming in…on some sort of schedule.

    I don’t know all the facts of this case, but while I wholeheartedly support a woman’s right to breastfeed and pump, it’s not something that needs to interfere with certain job responsibilities–such as having to be in front of a classroom teaching, which most teachers do from 9-11. In addition, MOST teachers have a lunch break. Guess when pumped when I was teaching? Bingo: my lunch break and free period.

    Yes, women should be allowed to pump on the job, but we should not be allowed to request that meetings be rescheduled, clients be delayed, lectures postponed, and classes restructured. This is pumping, not surgery.