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A New York federal court complaint, filed last week, alleges that Jay Z's company, Tidal, discriminated against an employee who was returning from maternity leave. The complaint alleges that the day after the new mother explained to her boss that she needed a private room to pump milk in, she was terminated.
The terminated employee had only returned to work for one week before being terminated. During that week, she did use a private office to pump. However, she was allegedly told that she should stop and pump in a bathroom (which is a violation of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act). The lawsuit was filed under both state and federal civil rights laws, as well as for breach of contract and an intentional tort.
Pregnancy discrimination is covered under Title VII and extends beyond simply the time when a woman is pregnant. It also covers situations post-pregnancy, such as lactation issues, and continued medical care. Additionally, pregnancy discrimination can cover someone who faces discrimination because an employer thinks they will become pregnant.
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, there are specific provisions that require employers to provide lactating mothers with a private area, that is not a bathroom, for them to pump breast milk. While the law does not require an employer to pay an employee while they are pumping, it does require an employer to provide the private space and break time for pumping. This specific provision only applies for one year after a birth, and employers with 50 or more employees may be able to avoid liability if they can prove compliance is too difficult.
As Tidal has learned, businesses must take seriously a woman's right to pump milk on the job. Tidal may be facing serious liability as a result of this alleged violation.