The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado and the ACLU Women’s Rights Project have indicated their intent to take legal action on behalf of a Jefferson County teacher who was fired for exercising her right under state and federal anti-discrimination laws to express her breast milk at work.
The ACLU took the first step towards bringing suit against the Rocky Mountain Academy of Evergreen (RMAE) by filing a state notice of claim against Rocky Mountain and a federal complaint of discrimination on behalf of Heather Burgbacher.
Burgbacher taught at Rocky Mountain for five years and consistently received positive evaluations. When Burgbacher tried to exercise her legal right to express milk at work, Rocky Mountain refused to allow her to pump and even told her she should feed her baby formula. Breastfeeding requires the mother to express milk at regular intervals throughout the day in order to maintain an adequate supply of milk to nourish her baby. Formula is considered an inferior substitute for breast milk.
After mediation forced the school to accommodate Burgbacher’s legal rights, the school made plans to terminate her contract. Burgbacher’s supervisor informed her that the sole reason for the termination was her request to pump. However, Colorado’s Workplace Accommodations for Nursing Mothers Act recognizes the benefits of breastfeeding to health and society at large and grants mothers the unequivocal right to express milk at work and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for nursing mothers who need to pump at work.
“Colorado law explicitly states that no mother should have to choose between breastfeeding her baby and keeping her job. Yet that’s precisely the position in which RMAE placed Ms. Burgbacher,” said Rebecca T. Wallace of the ACLU.
In their legal filings, the ACLU references the Colorado statute as well as federal laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex or pregnancy and forbids employers from retaliating against employees who protest violations of the anti-discrimination laws.
If you are a California school administrator with a question about school district related employment law, student/teacher safety, special education, accommodations, student rights, free speech or discipline, feel free to call attorney Richard Oppenheim at 818-461-8500. There is never a charge for an initial consultation and we can help you choose the best direction to resolve any school district employment law issue.