Lactation is not a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, and firing someone who wants to pump breast milk is not sex discrimination, according to a federal judge in Texas.
This decision is a stumper. Lactation occurs because of and immediately following pregnancy and childbirth, which makes it “related” to them. Only women lactate, so firing an employee because she needs to pump does discriminate against her on the basis of her sex.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought this suit against debt-collection agency Houston Funding on behalf of an employee whom the company fired, allegedly because she wanted to pump at work. The EEOC is considering appealing the decision by Judge Lynn Hughes (who is male).
Since the firing the federal government passed a law requiring employers to provide break time for new mothers to pump breast milk at work, but it does not prohibit employers from firing workers for pumping. One might have presumed that the anti-discrimination laws already had that covered, but now that is up in the air, and it will probably take years and opinions from higher courts to clear it up.