“New mom” isn’t one of the classes specifically protected from employment discrimination and harassment under Florida or federal law. However, under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), nursing mothers do have some protections in the workplace.
A former Walmart employee is suing the behemoth retailer for failing to provide her those protections and then firing her last year after she exerted her rights under federal law. Specifically, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is suing on her behalf.
Delays in lactation breaks and lack of privacy
According to the lawsuit, when the woman returned to work at a northern Florida Walmart in 2020 after having a baby, she was subjected to harassment by managers when she asked to take the breaks she was entitled to in order to pump breast milk. She says that she sometimes had to wait as long as an hour for someone to unlock the room that the store designated for lactating employees. Further, she says that sometimes male co-workers would be in the room while she was using it.
The FLSA states that employers must provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has a need to express the milk” and must provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public….”
A Walmart spokesperson denied the claims in the lawsuit and contended that the employee was fired “for excessive absences that were unrelated to any breaks or protected activity.” However, this wasn’t the first employee lawsuit against this particular Walmart location in recent years. An EEOC suit last year involved sexual harassment and wrongful termination.
Employees have a right to speak up without fear of retaliation
Too often, employees aren’t aware of the laws that protect them in ways their parents and grandparents couldn’t have imagined. Sometimes, employers aren’t, either. However, an employee has every right to stand up for their rights without fear that they’ll lose their job if they do.
If you have suffered discrimination or harassment in the workplace and haven’t been able to resolve the issue with your employer or you lost your job as a result of speaking up, it’s wise to seek legal guidance.