Monday, September 11, 2017
Patrick Dorrian, Breast-Feeding Alabama Police Officer Proved Sex, Leave Bias
An Alabama police officer was within her rights to quit when she was denied a desk job so she wouldn’t have to wear a ballistic vest that may have rendered her unable to breast-feed, a federal appeals court ruled.
Stephanie Hicks can keep her jury win on her constructive discharge claim because lactation is a medical condition related to pregnancy under federal sex discrimination law, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held on an issue of first impression for the court ( Hicks v. City of Tuscaloosa , 2017 BL 314674, 11th Cir., No. 16-13003, 9/7/17 ). Hicks is a former employee of the Tuscaloosa Police Department.
The Sept. 7 ruling is “very significant” because with it the Atlanta-based Eleventh Circuit became the second federal appeals court to recognize that “breastfeeding is covered under Title VII” of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Galen L. Sherwin said Sept. 8. The New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit previously reached the same conclusion in 2013, she said.
Sherwin is a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights Project, which supported Hicks as an amicus in the case. The New York-based lawyer said the Eleventh Circuit’s holding is also novel in two other important ways.
The court recognized that employers may be required to provide work accommodations to breast-feeding employees if they provide such accommodations to similarly situated non-breast-feeding workers, she told Bloomberg BNA. In other words, employers must treat accommodation requests from breast-feeding or lactating workers on the same terms as they treat other similar accommodation requests.