HOUSTON | Fri., Feb. 10, 2012 1:50pm EST (Reuters) - A woman whose firing from her job over a request to pump breast milk was supported by a Texas judge said last week the decision was unfair and discriminatory, and her lawyer said an appeal was under consideration.

Donnicia Venters, who worked at a debt collection agency called Houston Funding, gave birth to a daughter in December 2008. When she told a vice president of the company on Feb. 17, 2009, that she wanted to make arrangements for a private place to pump breast milk she was told her position had been filled.

She received a termination notice in the mail a week later, back-dated to Feb. 16 citing "job abandonment," said Tim Bowne, a lawyer for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who represented her.

Venters sued the company but Judge Lynn Hughes last week dismissed the case, saying the complaint was not covered by a provision of the Civil Rights Act that prohibits discrimination because of pregnancy.

"She gave birth on Dec. 11, 2008. After that day, she was no longer pregnant, and her pregnancy-related conditions had ended," Judge Hughes said in the ruling.

"I don't understand the judge's decision," Venters told Reuters in a brief interview. "A child needs a mother and mother's milk. It really isn't fair and it is discrimination. I just hope the law will be changed."

Venters' firing happened before a March 2010 amendment to a separate law that requires employers to provide reasonable break time for a mother to express milk for a nursing child for one year after the child's birth. It also says employers must provide a private place for this activity, other than a bathroom.

But companies with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from this law if allowing breaks would impose an undue hardship.

© 2010 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.


Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Employee Benefit News becomes archived within a week of it being published

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access