Saturday, March 07, 2009

Five for Smoking but not for Breastfeeding

According to the Dayton Daily News, the Ohio State Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case in which a woman claims she was fired for taking extraand unscheduled restroom breaks to pump breast milk. The company claims that breastfeeding (or pumping) is not a medical condition or an illness.

The woman in question claims that her firing is gender discrimination as she was fired as she attempted to "relieve discomfort due to lactation, a condition exclusive to women." Further, the woman claims that others at her work take extra breaks "to relieve discomfort from menstrual symptoms or the need for frequent urination."

It is not known whether or not the woman spoke to her employer and made arrangements with the company to stay later or arrive earlier to make accommodations for extra time to pump while working.

According to the report:
Totes, which prevailed against Allen in a 2008 trial and a subsequent appeal, argues that the company didn't discriminate because breastfeeding doesn't legally constitute an illness or medical condition. The company says there is legal precedent showing that employers don't have to give extra breaks to breastfeeding women.

Allen, who was hired as a temporary worker through an employment agency, said she began taking the extra breaks at 10 a.m. after she found her 10-minute scheduled break at 8 a.m. was too short and she couldn't stand to wait until her 11 a.m. lunch break.

This should lead to a lively conversation.


AcadeMama said...

I guess next time this is an issue women can just whip out a boob and pump while also doing their job as tellers, administrative assistants, factory line workers, whatever. Maybe that's when one of those hands-free double electric pumps would really come in handy. Or would that make people uncomfortable?

I'm filing this one under the "Really? You Want to be THAT A*#hole" category.

M said...

Your title says it all for me, Solon. Do most smokers have to get permission to take 5 minute breaks throughout the day? Are they expected to keep track of the time they've spent smoking and work out a plan to "payback" that time to said employer? Not in any company I've worked for.

I would also say that the ability to pump would probably make most breastfeeding mothers more productive as they wouldn't then have to worry about when to pump, where to pump, or how to sneak in the time to pump.

The Roof Almighty said...

Every place I've worked where I smoked has had one of two systems

1) You can smoke while you empty the grease traps, sweep the parking lot, or otherwise engage in work no one else wants to do
2)You clock out and aren't paid for the two ten minute breaks you have the *option* to take during the day. Non-smokers, then, are paid more, or leave 20 minutes earlier.

I have never had to assure the time clock what I was stepping outside for.

If they fired her for lactating, that is simply wrong. I don't see how this is up for discussion. If she made repeated bathroom breaks to express a superating abcess, flushing it with iodine and replacing the bandages (in other words, treating a temporary medical condition) it would not have happened, I agree.

But what does this have to do with smoking? How is it that smoking is the opposed opposite of being pregnant?

In my experience, she is treated much more like smokers are(left to take care of a physical pressure on someone else's schedule, and judged for doing so) than people who "need" to replenish their coffee or water.

If we are discussing injustices performed against employees, then smoking is a bad area to point at, unless you assume Mad Men still reflects the modern day.

You, and she, can't be fired for lactating at home:

I would assume, further, that masturbation (manual treatment an inflamed organ to relieve uncomfortable pressure, unsightly swelling, and unpleasant leakage) is more in line with inter-office lactation, and every place I've ever worked has had a strict "not at work" policy.

Except Wal-Mart, apparently.

M said...

Thanks for adding the experience of a former smoker, Roof. In my life before I went to grad school, I generally worked in office situations, and the smokers I worked with were not required to calculate their time. I was basing my statement on my experience. And the only reason that smoking even came into the discussion is b/c of Solon's title.

I think you're right that she is being treated more like smokers--being treated differently for doing something that is not considered acceptable, at least not by this particular employer.