Carrie Ferrera Clark was recently awarded $3.8 million to settle a lawsuit she filed when she was discriminated at work for pumping breast milk.
Any mom who’s returned to work after maternity leave will tell you it’s a balancing act, especially if her new work routine must now involve pumping breast milk. It’s not an easy feat, and unfortunately, oftentimes women face discrimination for their choice to continue breastfeeding and pumping milk after maternity leave. How? Aren’t there laws in place to protect breastfeeding mothers? The short answer is yes, “federal law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pumping moms, but too many employers don’t do enough.” When this happens, issues with breastfeeding begin popping up. For example, a woman’s milk supply may begin drying up, or she may develop painful conditions such as mastitis from not pumping often enough.
That’s why breastfeeding mother’s need to know their rights and fight against the discrimination that far too many mothers continue to face today. Take Carrie Ferrera Clark, for example. An Arizona paramedic with the fire department in Tuscon, Clark recently won a discrimination lawsuit she filed against her employer when she was discriminated against for breastfeeding and wanting to pump when she returned to work following her maternity leave. She was awarded $3.8 million in the end.
Clark originally filed her suit shortly after she returned to work after giving birth in 2012. It was then that she learned the “pumping accommodations she was offered were less than desirable.” In some cases, those accommodations were totally nonexistent. For example, her suit argued that, in many cases, “there was no space for her to pump.” Her attorneys added that “40 percent of fire stations did not provide lactation rooms at the time Clark returned” to work. When she voiced her concerns to HR, she was simply told to “pump in the bedrooms,” which wasn’t an ideal solution because many firefighters and paramedics used the “bedrooms to sleep on overnight shifts.”
Eventually, Clark’s manager told her “her pumping was excessive and she wasn’t fit for duty.” From there, she took her concerns to the department’s equal opportunity division, but “was retaliated against and given less favorable assignments.” As a result, Clark sued the department over allegations that her rights were being violated. Fortunately, the courts sided with her and awarded her 3.8 million.
Following the settlement, Clark’s attorney, Jeffery Jacobson, said Clark “is eager to move forward and get back to doing what she loves.” He also added that its Clark’s hope that other breastfeeding mothers that come after her won’t have to tackle with the same type of discrimination issues.