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Judge Rules in Favor of Breastfeeding Mother After Wrongful Termination


— December 9, 2018

A judge in Merrimack County recently ruled in favor of a mother who sued the New Hampshire Department and Health and Human Services over allegations of wrongful termination. According to the lawsuit, the mother requested breastfeeding accommodations at her job. She was eventually “fired in September 2012 due to unresolved issues concerning when and where she could breastfeed her newborn son during the workday.”


A judge in Merrimack County recently ruled in favor of a mother who sued the New Hampshire Department and Health and Human Services over allegations of wrongful termination. According to the lawsuit, the mother requested breastfeeding accommodations at her job. She was eventually “fired in September 2012 due to unresolved issues concerning when and where she could breastfeed her newborn son during the workday.”

Though attorneys for the state agency filed a motion of dismissal, Judge Richard McNamara later sided with the mother, Kate Frederick and ruled that her case “has legal standing to move forward.” McNamara wrote:

“Citing to her supervisors outward hostility towards the idea of her breastfeeding, Plaintiff presents a cognizable theory that she was fired for seeking to breastfeed her child per her medical provider’s recommendation. It is at least a jury question whether as plaintiff alleges, ‘public policy encourages a mother to breastfeed her child, particularly where breastfeeding is imperative for the child’s health.’”

Image of a Pregnant woman
Pregnant woman; image courtesy of piepie via Pixabay, www.pixabay.com

Prior to being terminated, Frederick sought the breastfeeding accommodations at her job as a child support officer back in late-June, because her son, Devon, “refused to drink from a bottle for the first 4½ months after he was born.” As a result, she argues in her suit that “breastfeeding was the only means of feeding him.” Additionally, she was also “advised by medical professionals that given her own health diagnoses, to include gestational diabetes and anemia, breastfeeding her child would be important for her health, too,” according to the lawsuit. Among her breastfeeding accommodation requests was a request to return to work after maternity leave to a “modified half-day schedule, allowing her to take a 30-minute break to breastfeed her child.” Specifically, she “asked for either a secluded place at the office or permission to go to the boy’s daycare, which was close by.” However, her supervisor declined her request, “allowing only for a lactation room on site where Frederick could pump breast milk into a bottle for the child.”

Shortly after returning to work, however, she was terminated, prompting Frederick to take her case against the DHHS to U.S. District Court in Concord. It was there that her case hit a wall and a judge even threw her “case out on 11th Amendment grounds, ruling that Frederick could not sue a state agency in federal court unless the agency waived immunity.”

Earlier this year, she refiled her wrongful termination case in Merrimack County Superior Court. Now that her case has been approved by McNamara, it is scheduled for trial in September 2019.

Sources:

Judge rules against DHHS in breastfeeding lawsuit

Breastfeeding lawsuit by fired DHHS worker headed for trial

 

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