The Supreme Court declined to hear a petition to overturn a decision by the 8th Circuit Court of appeals this month in a pregnancy discrimination case. The court of appeals reasoned that firing a woman for breastfeeding is not sex discrimination because men can also lactate.
Nationwide seemed not to be on Angela Ames’ side when she was asked to resign from her job at the insurance company after her request to pump breast milk at the office was denied. Ames reportedly was told by her supervisor that she should “go home and be with your babies” if she wanted to pump milk or breastfeed, a comment which the trail court found to be gender-neutral and therefore not a form of sex discrimination.
The Eighth Circuit decided last March that Ames did not meet the legal burden of proving that she was treated so badly that any reasonable person would have resigned, and therefore would not get a trial on pregnancy discrimination.
Galen Sherwin of the American Civil Liberties Union wrote of Ames’ case, saying it highlights “the multi-layered workings of structural discrimination,” saying that despite certain legal protections, workplace policies “still manage to turn a blind eye to the pervasive discrimination faced every day by working women.”
The Supreme Court heard a pregnancy discrimination case recently on whether the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) requires an employer to provide workplace accommodations to pregnant employees if that employer also provides comparable accommodations to non-pregnant employees who become temporarily unable to perform their jobs without the accommodation. The case, Young v. UPS, made it to the Supreme Court after Peggy Young was denied a request for a light duty assignment while she was pregnant, despite the company making similar arrangements for other employees because of disability or injury. The SCOTUS decision on Young’s case may have positive implications for Ames and her case. In the meantime, the denial to hear Ames’ petition effectively means the end of the line for her case.
Media Resources: ACLU brief 4/17/14; Insurance Journal 4/17/14; Feminist Newswire 6/3/14;