Fans of The Office will recall the episode in which Pam and Jim have their first child. The comedic twist? Pam accidentally nurses the wrong baby in the hospital. Horrifyingly funny on television; lawsuit-worthy in real life.
The Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law reported an 800 percent increase in breastfeeding-related discrimination lawsuits over the past decade, from nursing mothers and babies being kicked off planes, to a mom who attempted to protect her breastmilk from a TSA screening.
Here’s a few of the more noteworthy and/or outrageous examples:
The law fought the law
In 2012, Stephanie Hicks was a police officer with the Tuscaloosa Police Department who was relegated to pumping in the locker room. Radio calls from fellow officers to “wrap those boobs up” became the norm, and inexplicable write-ups, demotion, lowered pay, graveyard shifts, and poor performance evaluations followed.
She quit the force two months after returning to work, then sued the city for a hostile work environment and the unwillingness to accommodate her breastfeeding needs. She was awarded $374,000 in damages.
We’re watching you
Federal law requires employers to provide nursing mothers with reasonable break time and a private place (other than a bathroom) to pump breast milk in peace without being eyeballed by coworkers or the public. Michigan-based retailer Meijer was sued by former store clerk Rachel Keesling for creating what she described as a sexually hostile work environment that left her “distraught and humiliated.”
At one point, Keesling was forced to use a computer service room to pump, later discovering the space had a surveillance camera in it. In the pending litigation, Keesling seeks damages for emotional distress, invasion of privacy, and sex discrimination.
Flu shots, not food
Elizabeth Creekmore, a resident of Hamilton County, Indiana, sued her local CVS pharmacy after she claims employees made derogatory statements about her breastfeeding her hungry daughter while waiting in the store to get a flu shot.
In a series of text messages sent to her fiancé from CVS employees, Creekmore learned that security footage of her nursing her baby was likely filmed and viewed.
It’s the baby, stupid
“We support moms in breastfeeding their babies wherever and whenever needed. Babies don’t understand concepts like time or convenience, and it’s important to respond to their needs, both for baby’s wellbeing and to maintain mom’s milk supply,” says Hira Rahim, representative for Lansinoh Laboratories, Inc., a company that provides breastfeeding products and support.
“As a society, and a company, we need to do everything we can to support these moms in providing their babies with the very best start they can.”