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May 20, 1999 05:40am
Breastpump Suit Dismissed
Source: Reuters

(NEW YORK, NY) -- A federal judge Wednesday dismissed a discrimination lawsuit brought against MSNBC by an employee who alleged the cable network failed to provide adequate accommodations for her to pump breast milk at work.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan said that federal anti-discrimination laws do not require employers to make such provisions.

MSNBC is a 24-hour, all news cable television network launched in 1996 by the National Broadcasting Co. (NBC), which is owned by General Electric, also a defendant in the case.

The suit was filed in Manhattan federal court by Alicia Martinez, who had worked as a producer. Her core allegation was that MSNBC provided insufficient accommodations for her to pump breast milk in the office.

The issue before the court was not the truth of her allegations about her employer, but whether federal discrimination laws cover claims pertaining to breast pumping.

In one claim, she alleged that the desire to pump breast milk at work could be considered a disability under the American with Disabilities Act of 1990.

"Every court to consider the question to date has ruled that 'pregnancy and related medical conditions do not, absent unusual conditions, constitute a disability under the ADA'," Kaplan wrote.

He said that Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations "explicitly exclude conditions such as pregnancy that are not the result of a physiological disorder. One judge in this circuit has written 'it is simply preposterous to contend a woman's body is functioning abnormally because she is lactating'."

In another claim, Martinez alleged that the network had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that forbids gender discrimination in employment. Gender definition
under the law consists of favoring men to the disadvantage of women or vice versa.

She argued that she was discriminated against on the basis of a specific characteristic -- breast feeding -- that is unique to women.

However, Kaplan said that to allow her claim would elevate breast milk pumping to a protected status. He said that only U.S. Congress can take such action.

He also dismissed claims that she was subjected to a hostile work environment and retaliation.
 


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