Employer Liable For Failing To Provide Accommodation For Breastfeeding Featured

  19 September 2017

In Hicks v. City of Tuscaloosa, No. 7:13-cv-02063-TMP, 2015 WL 6123209, (N.D. Ala. Oct. 19, 2015), Stephanie Hicks ("plaintiff"), was a patrol officer on a narcotics task force working for the City of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Seven days after return from leave for the birth of her child, she received a poor quarterly evaluation reprimanding her for obtaining too many warrants and for not changing the oil in her patrol car on time. Over the next several months, her supervisors allegedly commented that they wanted to “get rid of that little b-tch,” called her a “c-nt,” complained about her taking the full 12 weeks of FMLA leave, complained about her “disappearing” to express breast milk, and forced her to express breast milk in the locker room. In December 2012, citing Ms. Hick’s inadequate performance and motivation, she was reassigned to patrol, a role that required her to work weekend and night shifts and take a salary cut. The new position also required her to wear a ballistics vest, which caused her pain and interfered with her ability to breastfeed. When the plaintiff’s request for a temporary desk job was denied, she resigned. Plaintiff brought claims under the FMLA and Title VII for sexual harassment and disparate treatment (based on the job reassignment and failure to accommodate lactation), and for constructive discharge. 

At trial, the jury found for the plaintiff, awarding her $50,000 for discriminatory transfer under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, $108,000 for her constructive discharge, $108,000 for retaliatory transfer under FMLA; and $108,000 in liquidated damages under FMLA. On appeal from that decision, the 11th Circuit affirmed the verdict in favor of Ms. Hicks, recognizing a right to accommodation for lactation purposes pursuant to federal law. Read more here: http://media.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/files/201613003.pdf