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Chicago nurse-in gets front page coverage!

September 5, 2009

Those close to me have gotten an earful recently about the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision to affirm that totes/Isotoner’s termination of LaNisa Allen’s employment was not a matter of gender discrimination and was not in violation of Ohio’s Pregnancy Discrimination Act. 

For those not familiar with the story, Allen is a breastfeeding mother who took breaks “without permission” during her workday to pump breastmilk for her child.  Noteworthy, however, is that Allen did have permission to take pumping breaks.  She simply needed to take additional breaks in order to meet the “needs” of her milk supply–and the needs of her child, for that matter!

What make the Court’s majority opinion especially contentious is its concurrence with the trial court’s asinine statement that

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. See Derungs v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., 374 F.3d 428, 439 (6th Cir. 2004).

Lactating is not a condition related to pregnancy?!

I. Don’t. Even. Know. Where. To. Begin.  (Seventh grade health class, perhaps?)

For those interested, you can read some great analysis of the Court’s decision on Danielle Friedland’s blog and on Writes Like She Talks.  (Whenever I try analyzing this decision, my head begins to explose.)

But while Ohio (my new homestate) may have let me down in the world of breastfeeding, Chicago (one of my former homes) built up my spirits when the Chicago Sun-Times featured a front page story about a “nurse-in” on Friday. 

Organized by Lauren Trost, the nurse-in was in part a response to another mother who recently chastised Trost for “illegally and indecently” breastfeeding her baby in public.  (Notably, public breastfeeding is not only not illegal in Illinois, it is also protected by Illinois law, as The Feminist Breeder has so helpfully pointed to her readers and to local Chicago media.)

And while I’m sure that the Sun-Times was looking for shock value when they featured this story on the front page, and although some information about the legal protections afforded to nursing moms in Illinois would have been helpful for Sun-Times readers, I still applaud the newspaper for giving breastfeeding and breastfeeding moms the “exposure” that they deserve!

ETA: I should note that I find it troubling that LaNisa Allen’s attorney(s) argued that pregnancy and lactation could and should be interpreted as “disabilities” according to the Americans with Disabilities Act.  While this may constitute a creative legal maneuver to establish the basis of Allen’s discrimination, it seems imprudent to characterize pregnancy and/or lactation as “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.”

One Comment leave one →
  1. renbeth permalink
    September 6, 2009 9:18 am

    “Lactating is not a condition related to pregnancy?!”

    Um, wow. Amazing. I guess it was just a really big coincidence that I started lactating after being pregnant. How lucky, hmmm?

    Unbelievable, Kristen. Your rage is more than understandable.

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