What we dubbed the “Great Texas Lactation Case” has been settled!
On February 9, 2012, we reported on a decision by a Texas federal judge who held that a woman who claimed to have been fired for seeking to pump breast milk while on the job had no viable claim under Title VII’s prohibition (found in the “Pregnancy Discrimination Act,” or PDA) against discrimination based upon pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition.
The Texas trial judge famously (notoriously?) held that: “Lactation is not pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition,” and stated curtly that after plaintiff gave birth, “she was no longer pregnant and her pregnancy-related conditions ended.”
We commented that “an appeal seems likely, as well as a reversal or overturning of this holding.”
We were right on both counts.
The EEOC appealed the decision, and numerous organizations such as The Texas Pediatric Society and the Texas Medical Association filed a “friend of the court brief” in support of the EEOC’s appeal, arguing that “since the yielding of milk by mammary glands is a medical condition caused by pregnancy and childbirth, lactation is a ‘related medical condition’ as contemplated by Title VII.”
The Court of Appeals reversed the lower court, in a relatively short opinion that affirmed the broad reach of the PDA. It held that ‘The EEOC’s argument that Houston Funding discharged [the employee] because she was lactating or expressing breast milk states a cognizable Title VII sex discrimination case.” Moreover, the Court also held that “lactation is a related medical condition of pregnancy for purposes of the PDA.”
It has now been reported that, on the eve of trial, the case has settled for $15,000. An attorney for the employer was quoted as saying that “The EEOC seems to have an unlimited budget to pursue these matters through the court system, instead of seeking resolutions, per their own standards. The settlement reflects the need to end this matter so they would not have to incur additional attorney expenses.”