Monday, January 13th, 2014
A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a Pennsylvania mother hopes to achieve enforcement of a provision of Obamacare that is supposed to entitle breastfeeding women to have private space and time to pump at work. Thirty-one year-old Bobbi Bockoras, who operates a palletizer at a glass factory, claims she was not only denied clean, comfortable space to pump, but also says she was harassed by male colleagues and reassigned to a less convenient work schedule. More from NBC News:
It’s the first lawsuit brought by the ACLU under the ACA’s breastfeeding provision, which is the first federal law to require employers to accommodate nursing mothers on the job.
Bockoras’ case is one of a growing number of lactation discrimination lawsuits highlighting the need for more accommodation and acceptance for nursing mothers in the workplace, advocates say.
Despite overwhelming evidence supporting the health benefits of breastfeeding, “women who choose to continue breastfeeding when they return to the paid workforce face insurmountable obstacles that can make them choose between their jobs and what is in the best interest of their babies,” said New York-based ACLU senior staff attorney Galen Sherwin, who is representing Bockoras.
Bockoras’ lawyers argue that not only was she discriminated against and not accommodated under the law, but she was retaliated against when her shifts were switched. Verallia North America, which is headquartered in Muncie, Indiana, filed a motion to dismiss the case. The company is “committed to providing a respectful workplace” and “takes its obligations under the law very seriously and is committed to abiding by all federal and state employment laws,” it said in a statement.
Bockoras says her previous dayshift schedule has since been reinstated and that the locker room where she still pumps has been cleaned.
Under the ACA provision, which amends the Fair Labor Standards Act, companies are required to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth” and “are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion.” The provision also prohibits retaliation by companies when employees file complaints.
Prior to the ACA, nursing mothers who wanted to pump at work had few rights. An employer could refuse to allow a woman to express milk at work or fire her for doing so.
As more women become aware of their rights under the law, advocates expect lactation discrimination cases to proliferate. “Partly because the ACA offers a new avenue of relief that wasn’t available previously, we’re going to see more claims using that tool to vindicate the rights of women violated on the job,” Sherwin said.
Image: Breast pump, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, August 8th, 2012
In the wake of a challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a state-funded charter school in Louisiana has asked lawyers to review its policy of requiring female students to take a pregnancy test if they are suspected of being pregnant, Today.com reports:
The policy, which dates at least to 2006, covers the approximately 700 students who are accepted into the state-funded Delhi Charter School in Delhi, La.
“There have never been any complaints from students or parents about the school policy,” Chris Broussard, the school’s teacher-director for grades 6-12, told TODAY.com. “However, in light of the recent inquiry, the current policy has been forwarded to the law firm of Davenport, Files & Kelly … to ensure that necessary revisions are made so that our school is in full compliance with constitutional law.”
The law firm did not return a call to TODAY.com.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana sent the school a letter on Monday, saying that the policy violates federal law and the U.S. Constitution, and threatening legal action if it is not revised immediately.
“The policy discriminates against female students not just for being pregnant but even for the possibility that they might be pregnant, and treats them as though pregnancy was some kind of contagious disease by telling them they can’t stay in school,” Marjorie Esman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, told TODAY.com. “That is a gross violation of the law and their right to have an education.”
Image: Pregnancy test, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, March 21st, 2012
Brianna Moore, a 6th grade honor student at a Delaware middle school, was allowed to return to school today after being suspended because she had dyed her hair pink. USA Today reports:
The Christina School District had barred Brianna Moore from classes at Shue-Medill Middle School near Newark last week because, officials said, her hair violated the school’s rules against unnatural and “excessive” colors.
School policy, according to its website, allows only “natural color, brown, blond, black, natural red/auburn.”
The change of heart was noted in an e-mail from the attorney for the school district to the ACLU of Delaware, which had taken up the case.
“We’re on our way back to school now,” said her father, Kevin Moore. “That was our whole point.”
Moore said he had allowed his daughter to dye her hair pink as an incentive for improving her grades, which she did.
Image: Pink hair dryer, via Shutterstock.
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Wednesday, March 14th, 2012
A lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Minnesota has sparked a debate over whether schools can demand to know a child’s Facebook password to investigate allegations of bullying or inappropriate language. MSNBC.com reports on the case, which involves a 12-year-old middle school girl who has not been named in the lawsuit:
According to the ACLU’s version of events, the girl had moved and entered a new school as a 6th-grade student in the fall of 2010. In early 2011, she felt targeted by a school monitor and posted an update to her friends-only Facebook wall saying she “hated” the monitor because “she was mean to me,” using her own computer and while off campus.
Soon after, she was called into the principal’s office — he had obtained a screen shot of the post — and given detention.
The student subsequently posted another update to her page related to the incident: “I want to know who the f%$# told on me,” the complaint says. Again, she was called to the principal’s office, and this time was suspended for “insubordination” and banned from a class ski trip.
In March, the student had a second run-in with school authorities. The parent of another student had complained that the girl was talking about sex with that student. The 12-year-old was called out of class by a school counselor and eventually brought into a room with several school officials and the sheriff’s deputy, where the password demands began.
The ACLU claims that the school never asked the girl’s parents for permission to examine her private Facebook space. The school district doesn’t dispute that it obtained the girl’s password, but does say it had parental permission.
Image: Keyboard, via Shutterstock.
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