The Supreme Court has declined to overturn a lower court’s ruling that an insurance company was within bounds when it fired a breastfeeding mother. The woman’s suit was dismissed by the Eighth Circuit Court on the grounds that firing a woman for breastfeeding isn’t sexist because men can lactate, too.
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Nationwide and the Eighth Circuit Court, denying Ames’ petition for a review of her case’s dismissal. The trial court’s decision — which the Circuit Court upheld — said that for Nationwide’s firing of Ames for taking time to express milk at work could not have been sexist because under certain circumstances, some men can lactate, too.
“The court’s reasoning in this case echoes old Supreme Court pronouncements that discriminating against pregnant women at work isn’t sex discrimination because both men and women can be non-pregnant,” Sherwin wrote. “Congress long ago rejected this ridiculous reasoning when it passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. It’s disheartening to see it resurface again.”
The Court also found that the dismissive statement that Ames should “go home and be with (her) babies” was in fact gender neutral and not directed at Ames because she was a new mother.
Additionally, the circumstances around the case indicate that Ames was pressured into agreeing to sign the letter of resignation when she was upset and in pain. It was her first day back from maternity leave and Nationwide denied her access to the company’s “lactation room” for new mothers because they said they needed three days to process Ames’ paperwork, a requirement no one had seen fit to tell Ames about until the day she returned to work.