Recently, a federal jury awarded a City of Tucson Fire Department paramedic $3.8 million after it found that the department violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) when it failed to provide her with a private space to lactate, denied her requests to transfer to other fire stations that could accommodate her lactation needs, and retaliated against her when she complained. The case, Carrie v. City of Tucson, No. CV-14-02543-TUC-CKJ, was originally filed in Pima County Superior Court in 2014 and later removed to the District Court for the District of Arizona.
The plaintiff’s allegations included that she was given swing assignments to fire stations that were not equipped with appropriate lactation rooms and that she used vacation and sick leave time to avoid being assigned to such stations. In addition, the plaintiff alleged that, at one station, the department provided her with the Battalion Chief’s and Emergency Captain’s combined office/bedrooms as lactation spaces and instructed her to ask them to leave their rooms whenever she needed to pump. When she explained that she pumped every 2-3 hours, including during the night, and that it was unreasonable for her to awaken her supervisors to ask them to leave their rooms, the City’s Human Resources personnel allegedly told the plaintiff that her pumping was “excessive” and it seemed that plaintiff was not “fit for duty.” After nearly five years of litigation, the case proceeded to trial on April 1, and the jury returned its verdict on April 12.
Carrie v. City of Tucson is a reminder that employers may want to consider reviewing their lactation accommodation policy and employee training associated with that policy.
In February, we discussed employers’ responsibilities toward nursing mothers and some of the requirements employers may want to consider when reviewing their lactation accommodation policies. As a refresher, we include our article here.