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Texas Lactation Case Sets Stage for Breastfeeding Battle

Texas Lactation Case Sets Stage for Breastfeeding Battle

Texas Lactation Case Sets Stage for Breastfeeding Battle

Breastfeeding is a contentious issue in the United States and, in particular, Texas has become the latest battleground for the rights of mothers who choose to breastfeed. Recently, a lawsuit was filed in Houston against a real estate company that denied an employee access to a lactation room. The case, EEOC v. Houston Funding II, Ltd., could have far-reaching implications for breastfeeding mothers and employer responsibilities. This article provides an overview of the case, the legal issues at stake and the broader implications for women’s rights in the workplace.

The Case

The case started with a complaint filed in 2018 by a former employee of Houston Funding II, Ltd., a Houston-based real estate firm. The employee alleged that when she asked for accommodations to pump breast milk, her employer refused and subsequently fired her. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit on the employee’s behalf, alleging that Houston Funding had violated federal law by denying her request for reasonable accommodations for lactation and subsequently terminating her employment.

Legal Issues at Stake

The laws related to lactation accommodations in the workplace are complex and still evolving. The lawsuit in question is being brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, among other factors. The EEOC claims that the employee was denied the ability to pump breast milk and, as a result, was subjected to sex discrimination, as well as retaliation when she was subsequently terminated.

A key issue in the case is whether the company’s failure to provide a designated lactation room was a violation of the law. The Affordable Care Act mandates that employers must provide a private space “other than a bathroom” for employees to pump breast milk. While the definition of what constitutes a “private space” is not explicitly defined, proponents of the law argue that it should include a lactation room with certain accommodations, such as a locking door, seating, and electrical outlets.

Implications for Women’s Rights

The outcome of the case could have significant implications for the rights of working mothers across the United States. The case highlights the ongoing struggle for women to gain equitable treatment in the workplace, particularly when it comes to breastfeeding, a natural and essential aspect of motherhood. Unfortunately, the realities of capitalism make accommodating for breastfeeding mothers difficult, resulting in a decrease of breastfeeding mothers in comparison to formula-fed babies.

With many women in the workforce balancing motherhood and a career, employers have a responsibility to accommodate their needs and protect their rights. Women’s rights advocates argue that employers should be required to provide lactation rooms and reasonable accommodations for employees who are breastfeeding, as they are protected under federal law. The EEOC v. Houston Funding II, Ltd. case is one example of the ongoing push for gender equality in the workplace and maternity accommodations.


The EEOC v. Houston Funding II, Ltd. case is poised to become a landmark case for breastfeeding mothers and women’s rights in the workplace. Employers need to be diligent in creating policy that accommodates breastfeeding mothers. Consequently, the case could set a precedent for how employers across the country are required to accommodate breastfeeding mothers, making motherhood more accessible in the workforce. Ultimately, it is incumbent on employers and society as a whole to understand and protect the rights of working mothers who choose to breastfeed.

Do women have the right to bring a breast pump to work in order to feed an infant at home?  That’s the question being posed to a court of appeals in Texas this month after a woman was fired from her job because she told her boss that she planned to pump breast milk at work after returning from pregnancy leave.

The case, EEOC v. Houston Funding II, Ltd., involves a debt collection firm where Donnicia Ventners was employed.  Ventners had worked for Houston Funding for two years when she gave birth to her daughter in December of 2008.  She had a caesarean section delivery and informed her workplace that her doctor would not allow her to return to work until an infection of her incision had healed.

When Ventners called about returning to the office following her pregnancy leave, she asked upper managers at the company whether she could pump breast milk in a private back office space.  According to management at the company, however, they had already assumed that Ventners had abandoned her job and would not be returning.  She was informed of this only at the time when she asked about pumping breast milk, not before.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the company under two different anti-discrimination statutes.  The first, Title VII, is the typical statute used to protect women from sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.  The second is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act or PDA, which guarantees women the right not to be discriminated against in the workplace due to pregnancy or childbirth.

The case hit a significant roadblock at the district court level, where a judge decided that lactation discrimination was not prohibited by either Title VII or the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.  According to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions are all covered, but the judge ruled that after the day when Ventners gave birth, “she was no longer pregnant and her pregnancy related conditions ended.”

This ruling struck many attorneys in the area of women’s rights as being very likely to be overturned on appeal.  The case was dubbed “The Great Texas Lactation Case” by a number of court watchers, and on appeal the judge so far has rejected arguments that breastfeeding is not in fact a pregnancy related condition.  Instead of arguing that lactation discrimination itself is acceptable, the attorneys for the debt collection firm are now arguing that discrimination due to a breast pump is not the same as discrimination due to breastfeeding or lactation itself.

Ventners’s case has still not been decided on the appellate level.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has maintained throughout court proceedings that breastfeeding is clearly a pregnancy related condition, and that regular expression of breast milk with a breast pump can be necessary to prevent discomfort and significant illnesses in breastfeeding mothers.  The EEOC’s position is that lactation discrimination is still illegal against employers nationwide under the provisions of the PDA and Title VII.

Sources: eeoc.gov, uscourts.gov