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Fired For Breastfeeding at Work

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Dr.Wendy Walsh: Marina Chavez had been a cashier for three years at Acosta Tacos in Los Angeles when she learned she was pregnant. She continued to work during her pregnancy, but her baby was born premature -- so she was able to take disability leave and nurse her baby at home for four weeks. When she returned a month after the birth, she was told she had been replaced, which is against the law. Despite this incident, she was called into work for the next two shifts to cover for an absent employee. When her boss learned that during those two night shifts that her infant had been brought to the taco restaurant at the time of her breaks and she nursed her baby the car, he fired her. She was told she couldn't work if as long as she was still breastfeeding her baby. But Marina needed the minimum wage job to support her family, and begged to get her job back. Instead, she was told her that with that "attitude" she could look for employment elsewhere, and he outright fired her on the spot.

woman getting fired

In this recent landmark case, the court clearly stated that breastfeeding is intrinsic to the female sex (duh!) and thus, the judge determined that Marina suffered sex discrimination. After a two-day hearing, the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission found that Acosta Tacos' termination of Marina Chavez -- due to her insisting on her right to return to work and nurse her baby -- violated the Fair Employment and Housing Act's (FEHA) prohibition against sex discrimination.  
Finding the employer liable for sex discrimination, retaliation, and failure to prevent discrimination, the Commission ordered Jesus Acosta, owner of Acosta Tacos, to pay Marina Chavez $21,645.00 in lost wages plus $20,000.00 to compensate for her emotional suffering.  The Commission also ordered Acosta to pay the state's General Fund a $5,000.00 administrative fine, develop a written policy (printed in English and Spanish) prohibiting sex and pregnancy discrimination in the workplace; train all employees and supervisors on the policy, and post a notice stating that the Commission determined the company violated the FEHA and ordered it to pay damages. 

So in the end, this small chain of Mexican restaurants has to shell out $46,645.00. Wouldn't it have been cheaper to just let the women nurse her tiny bundle on her legal breaks? Note to Acosta Tacos: We'll be looking for those pregnancy and breastfeeding policies --- printed in English and Spanish -- right beside the sign that reminds employees to wash their hands. Way to go, State of California!

next: NeNe: 'I Shouldn't Have Been A Single Mom!'
74 comments so far | Post a comment now
MarMar August 21, 2009, 4:38 PM

Marina Chavez should be proud of herself for standing up for her rights. Because of her, now other women won’t have to face the appalling treatment she did. I applaud her and wish the best for her and her family!

Kristin August 21, 2009, 5:24 PM

Damn straight. Poor woman. I’m so proud of her though.

GPC August 21, 2009, 5:42 PM

If she was feeding in the restaurant in front of patrons…I would understand…but she wasn’t even in the building so she shouldn’t have been fired. And she shouldn’t have been replaced. But I suspect that anyone else who comes after her will suffer for her lawsuit. (I’m not saying she shouldn’t have sued as I believe she was right doing so).

Jeni August 21, 2009, 10:57 PM

Huh? How is it understandable if it was in the restaurant full of patrons? Assuming it was on her break, that should have been just fine, too. Any woman can come in and breastfeed her baby in the restaurant full of patrons as she sees fit, as per California law. An employee on a legal break has just as much right to do so.

yvonnes August 22, 2009, 12:33 PM

Probably just another miserable boss looking to make someone else’s life miserable. He got what he deserved.

Angie August 25, 2009, 5:52 AM

I’m glad she pursued this lawsuit and won. Some people let their bosses rule their lives and treat them however they want to. I hope this boss has learned his lession and I’m glad for everything he has to do now because of it.

Kadie August 25, 2009, 6:58 AM

Where was this infant when she wasn’t feeding him/her? In the car, which is clearly a violation of law, or in the restaurant which is a liability for the owner?

Proud Breastfeeder August 25, 2009, 9:02 AM

Kadie, if you would have paid attention to the article, you would have noticed it said the baby had been brought to the restaurant.

Ann August 25, 2009, 9:34 AM

Awesome! Its about time the employer is held accountable for his actions. So many times they get away with harassment,more so now that there are less jobs available and employees have to tolerate it. Its great to see a Mom putting every effort to make sure her child gets breastfed. I did it for 13 months and my daughter very seldom gets sick. She is 9 now, finding places to breastfeed was a chore,restrooms are not clean environments. Best of luck to the Chavez family & Thank You for putting your child first.

Barbara Wright August 25, 2009, 12:25 PM

That should be illegal! She’s caring for her child.

And why is it we are encouraging these teen girls it’s ok to have babies before they are even out of high school?

The school I work at has a “Nursing/lactation” station in the Nurse’s office. It’s not even a private room, it’s a drape that separates them from any boys.

andrea August 25, 2009, 12:51 PM

So nice to see justice served!! : )

Angie August 25, 2009, 4:55 PM

Shame on the manager for first replacing her on maternity leave, then being so ignorant over feeding a child the NATURAL way. I am shocked that he had a fit that she was so considerate to nurse her baby in the car! If the manager wasn’t also the owner, I hope the owner reprimanded Marina’s boss. Nature made breasts for children FIRST. The sexual effect it has on men is secondary and society needs to GET OVER their hang-ups concerning breastfeeding before we produce yet another generation that thinks anything to do with breasts is dirty. Even my doctor is embarrassed by it. Seriously people?

Proudly Momma Who Breastfed Three Healthy Boys!

happygirl730 August 25, 2009, 9:08 PM

While I’m all for breastfeeding,I think we need to look at the bigger picture. This case has clearly shown the woman was discriminated against but what would happen if the owner closed? No one really wins in cases like this.

morekare August 26, 2009, 12:16 PM

If she breastfed the baby in private while on her break, then who was watching the baby when she wasn’t on her break? No, she should find other work. To be honest with you, I find it disgusting and nauseating to see another woman breastfeeding her baby in public especially in a restaurant. It’s like blowing mucus out of your nose or coughing-up mucus—-it’s disgusting and should be done in private.

Skempy August 27, 2009, 1:20 PM

What on earth does this have to do with MUCUS??? And where the baby was when she was not on break is completely immaterial to this case. When reading the article, you must be able to infer a few things: for example, that another party is bringing the child in for the feedings (and therefore, likely seeing to its’ care when the mom is working).

Sounds as if you should stay home if you are unable to be tolerant of a person discreetly feeding her child ~ or God forbid you might have to witness someone blow his or her nose !!!

Get a life!

Courtney  September 28, 2009, 6:35 AM

Excuse me, but even if she was nursing in the restaurant she should not have been fired. Wherever a woman is legally allowed to be she is legally allowed to breastfeed. Breasts are first and foremost for nourishing a baby and second for recreational enjoyment. Let’s not get it reversed and only see breasts as sexual, folks. Good for her for standing up for her rights. She’s made it just a little bit easier for all the women coming after her in this world that will face similar issues. How do you think that Wash Your Hands sign got there? A chain reaction and lesson-learned scenario just like this. Progress is made in little, painful steps.

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