In a precursor to a planned lawsuit, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a “notice of claim” on behalf of a teacher allegedly terminated for pumping breast milk on the job, reports the Associated Press (AP) in the Seattle Post Intelligencer. The notice was filed against Rocky Mountain Academy, a public charter school in Jefferson County School District (JCSD). The ACLU claims the school failed to renew Heather Burgbacher’s teaching contract in February 2011 because of her pumping schedule. Burgbacher claims she arranged to have her students do supervised desk work during her 20-minute pumping breaks three times a week.
According to JCSD spokeswoman Lynn Setzer said Burgbacher was a technology teacher who worked under a yearly contract. Setzer contends Burgbacher wasn’t retained because her position was transformed into a technology adviser to staffers and the school didn’t think Burgbacher was a good fit for the new role. Setzer said Burgbacher was offered an accommodation to fit her breastfeeding schedule and said Burgbacher indicated she was satisfied with that.
Under a law passed in 2008, Colorado employers are required to make reasonable accommodations to allow mothers to pump milk at work. In the notice of claim, Burgbacher says the school’s human resource manager told her the school couldn’t accommodate the pumping breaks three times a week and advised her to spend her Thanksgiving break rearranging her breastfeeding schedule and consider switching to formula. ACLU spokeswoman Rosemary Harris Lytle said the school has up to 90 days to respond to the claim. Unless the school decides to negotiate a settlement, the ACLU will file a lawsuit after the school responds.
Source: Seattle Post Intelligencer, 8/16/11, By AP
[Editor's Note: According to the ACLU''s webpage on the legal dispute, "Burgbacher, a teacher at the Rocky Mountain Academy of Evergreen (RMAE) did not have her contract renewed by the school this year because she stood up for her right to express milk for her newborn baby at work. That right is explicitly guaranteed by the Workplace Accommodations for Nursing Mothers Act, passed by the state legislature in 2008." That page also contains links to Burgbacher's EEOC complaint and notice of claim.
A recent amendment to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act similarly requires employers to provide reasonable break time and a place for nursing mothers to express breast milk for one year after their child’s birth. The Department of Labor has issued a fact sheet on this requirement. COSA members and those subscribed to NSBA's Federal Regulations and Resources publication can access summaries of the statutory provision and additional resources here.
In July 2010, Legal Clips summarized an Associated Press story reporting that the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA) had been waging a two year battle with the Milwaukee school system’s board over the board’s decision to exclude erectile dysfunction (ed) drugs, such as Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra, from the teachers’ health care plan. MTEA contended that the drugs are necessary treatment for “an exclusively gender-related condition.”]