Woman loses lawsuit over pumping breast milk at work

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HOUSTON - A judge has ruled against a Houston-area woman who filed a lawsuit after she said she was fired for trying to pump breast milk at work.

In a lawsuit filed on behalf of Donnicia Venters, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission argued that Houston Funding fired her in February 2010 over the lactation issue.

Venters said when she went on maternity leave, her boss, Harry Cagle, promised to save her position.

But when she returned to work and asked to pump breast milk, Cagle said her job had been given to someone else.

Houston Funding argued that it fired Venters because, while recovering from postpartum complications, she didn't keep supervisors updated on her recovery and return from pregnancy leave.

In a three-page order filed last week in Houston, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes ruled that while dismissal because of pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition is illegal, "lactation is not pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition."

The day after she gave birth to her daughter on Dec. 11, 2009, "she was no longer pregnant and her pregnancy-related conditions ended. Firing someone because of lactation or breast-pumping is not sex discrimination."

Hughes concluded: "Even if Venters' claims are true, the law does not punish lactation discrimination."

Venters said Wednesday that she and the EEOC hadn't decided yet whether to appeal.

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