A breastfeeding mother who claims her employer denied her a room to pump breast milk in and pressured her to resign on her first day back from maternity leave, cannot sue for discrimination, an American appeals court has ruled.
Mother-of-two Angela Ames says that when she returned to her job following two months maternity leave, she was told she couldn't use the company's lactation rooms because she had failed to fill in paperwork to seek security access to the rooms.
Angela, who worked for insurance company Nationwide in Des Moines, Iowa, claims to have been unaware of this policy.
According to ABC news, a company nurse suggested that while waiting for the paperwork to be processed - which would take three days - Angela should use the office's 'wellness room,' which was set aside for ill employees and was currently occupied.
The nurse also cautioned that doing so might expose Angela's milk to germs.
Angela said that being unable to express milk while waiting for the room to be vacated left her in pain so she sought help from her department head, Karla Neel.
Angela claims that Karla told her that finding her a room to express was not her responsibility. She says Karla then handed her a piece of paper and pen and told to write her resignation, saying:
"I think it's best that you go home to be with your babies."
Angela wanted to take her employer to court for claims of gender and pregnancy discrimination, but her case will not go to trial after the appeal court ruled that she did not have enough evidence of discrimination.
One of the appeals judges, Roger Wollman wrote:
"Rather than intentionally rendering Ames's work conditions intolerable, the record shows that Nationwide sought to accommodate Ames's needs."
He stated that Angela did not give Nationwide a reasonable opportunity to fix the conditions and that while pumping in the wellness room 'may not have been immediately available or ideal,' Angela had an obligation not to jump to the conclusion that her only option was to resign.
Angela's lawyers said she is disappointed in the ruling and plans to ask for a rehearing.
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