- The University of Notre Dame has been sued by a former swim coach who said she was subjected to discrimination because of her gender, demoted because of her pregnancy and paid less than a male swim coach (Jensen v. University of Notre Dame Fond du Lac, No. 3:21-cv-00346 (N. D. Ind., May 17, 2021)).
- The plaintiff said the head swim coach was "openly patronizing and judgmental" of her plan to take a few weeks off for maternity leave and that, post-pregnancy, he accused her of disappearing during meets. According to court documents, she explained that her absences and multiple trips to the bathroom during a swim meet were to pump breast milk. The plaintiff also said that the head swim coach told her that "nobody cares what you went through" regarding her postpartum health concerns. She said her contract was not renewed after she complained.
- She claimed violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, the Equal Pay Act, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and the Family and Medical Leave Act. She is suing for lost wages and benefits, damages for emotional pain and punitive damages as well as attorneys' fees and costs.
The treatment of pregnant workers has been a particular focus of recent lawmaking, but movement on this issue has been ongoing.
Covered employers are required under the Fair Labor Standards Act to provide nursing mothers a place, other than a bathroom, to express breast milk. The location must be private and free from intrusions. Employers must also provide reasonable break time for this purpose for up to one year after the baby's birth. Many states have their own laws regarding breastfeeding and some of those laws are more protective of nursing mothers than the federal requirements, so employers should also check applicable state law.
While federal law does not require employers to provide lactation breaks and spaces for exempt employees, many employers provide them as a best practice and some do even more. Goldman Sachs, for example, pays for moms to ship breast milk back home when they travel for work.
Experts say that it doesn't take much to set up a dedicated lactation room for nursing mothers. A comfortable chair, a door with a lock, an outlet and a table that can accommodate a pump and a laptop are all that is needed. For workplaces short on space, freestanding lactation pods could be considered.
While amenities are helpful, it's equally important to have an open, supportive environment for pregnant workers and new moms. A manager who has been educated about breastfeeding is key, according to Jessica Shortall, author of Work. Pump. Repeat. A lactation policy also can be useful.