Firm Sued for Terminating Nursing Mother

June 30, 2011 ( - A Houston debt collection firm violated federal law by discriminating against an employee because she intended to use a breast pump upon her return from maternity leave, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has charged in a lawsuit.

According to an EEOC press release, Houston Funding refused to permit Donnicia Venters to return to her job after she had taken less than three months of maternity leave. Although Houston Funding had been holding her job open for her, the company changed its mind after Venters advised upper management of her intent to express milk in a back office upon her return.   

The EEOC contends that Venters’s pregnancy and childbirth, and specifically her status as a lactating female, motivated Houston Funding’s decision to terminate her employment.  

Not only do such actions violate anti-discrimination laws, but a provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as set forth in Section 4207 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” (See DoL Wants Input on Break Time for Nursing Mothers) Employers are also required to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”