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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!


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