The Ohio Supreme Court affirms the right of Totes/Isotoner to fire a woman for pumping breast milk as necessary
On Thursday, the Ohio Supreme Court affirmed that Totes/Isotoner had the right to fire breastfeeding mother LaNisa Allen for taking breaks to pump milk. Yeah, you read that right. Timothy P. Reilly, attorney for Totes/Isotoner, told the Columbus Dispatch, “Totes has taken the position since the beginning of this case that it terminated the plaintiff (Allen) for a proper reason, and that’s that she took unauthorized work breaks, regardless of her sex or condition.” Because unauthorized pumping, clearly, can be divorced from one’s “sex or condition.” This would be the rare instance in which I find myself tempted to type “LOL,” except the Supreme Court used essentially the same reasoning: It was on Allen to prove that the stated cause for her dismissal (failure to follow directions) was a pretext for discrimination, and technically, she didn’t. Ergo, the court decided not to bother addressing the thornier question of whether lactation counts as a pregnancy-related condition, which would be protected under the state’s anti-discrimination laws.
In the strictest legal sense, the ruling is logical: Allen admitted she took unauthorized breaks, and that’s a firing offense. If she can’t prove that someone said, “Ha! Now’s our chance to get rid of her for being a woman!” then apparently, she can’t prove discrimination. But it’s manifestly weaselly to suggest that her “insubordination” can somehow be separated from the fact that she was lactating, especially since they were responding to a decision that included this colossal eye-roller:
Allen gave birth over five months prior to her termination from [Isotoner]. Pregnant [women] who give birth and choose not to breastfeed or pump their breasts do not continue to lactate for five months. Thus, Allen’s condition of lactating was not a condition relating to pregnancy but rather a condition related to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding discrimination does not constitute gender discrimination.
Of course not.
Chief Justice Thomas Moyer and one of the court’s three women, Justice Maureen O’Connor, at least had the decency to “concur in judgment only,” meaning they agreed that Allen hadn’t technically proved discrimination but believe lactation should, in fact, be covered under the law against pregnancy discrimination. Yet the only straight-up dissenting opinion came from Justice Paul Pfeifer, who wrote, “Seriously? Are you kidding me with this?”
OK, no he didn’t. But he did say that even if you insist on separating Allen’s extra breaks from her condition as a lactating mother, then they should be regarded no differently than unscheduled pee breaks. “There is no evidence in the record about any limit on the length of unscheduled restroom breaks and no evidence that employees had to seek permission from a supervisor to take an unscheduled restroom break. There is evidence only that unscheduled bathroom breaks were allowed and that LaNisa Allen was fired for taking them. What made her breaks different?” Ding ding ding!
More importantly, Pfeifer gets to the heart of why the court’s refusal to address whether lactation counts as “a condition related to pregnancy” is so incredibly disappointing:
We accept cases not necessarily because of how the result might affect the parties in the individual case, but because of how a holding might affect other persons similarly situated. Ohio’s working mothers who endure the uncomfortable sacrifice of privacy that almost necessarily accompanies their attempt to remain on the job and nourish their children deserve to know whether Ohio’s pregnancy-discrimination laws protect them.
Yeah, they do. And furthermore, LaNisa Allen deserved not to be fired because her employer expected a lactating mother to go five hours without expressing milk. Totes/Isotoner may have the law on their side by a hair, but that doesn’t change the facts. LaNisa Allen was terminated for taking 15 minutes a day to relieve a painful and distracting condition that arose because she believed breastfeeding was best for her child and thus chose to maintain her body’s natural post-pregnancy state. Lactation is, in fact, related to pregnancy, even if some women halt it earlier than Allen did. And breastfeeding discrimination is, in fact, gender discrimination, unless I missed the news that men can breastfeed now. That anyone could argue otherwise with a straight face only highlights how absurdly reluctant some people are to acknowledge and oppose blatant sexism.
More Related Stories
- My text blew up in my face
- Boy Scouts end ban on openly gay boys
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- Billionaire hedge funder: Babies, breast-feeding "kill" focus, keep women from succeeding
- "Bookless library" set to open in Texas
- Man arrested for sending Craigslist sex party to neighbor's house
- Greek yogurt, toxic waste hazard?
- Glenn Beck: CNN interview with atheist tornado survivor was a setup!
- Incoming BBC news director on journalism gender gap: "We can do better"
- Illegal construction, shoddy materials at fault in Bangladesh factory disaster
- Pope Francis: Atheists are all right!
- Lawsuit alleges anti-gay hiring practices at ExxonMobil
- Boy Scouts poised to vote, still greatly divided on gay youth
- Is recreational pot use safe?
- How I ended up in a pyramid scheme
- My bipolar partner beat me
- Teenagers care more about online privacy than you think
- Radio host tweets rape joke, blames journalists for reporting on it
- El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman's life hangs in the balance
- Kicked out of the mall -- for an anti-cancer hat
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11