Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I Disagree with the Company, but not the Decision

Facebook is an amazing thing...I really do learn things there. :) Aside from how to build a fun farm and being totally addicted to the games.

So anyway...someone posted an article about a woman who was fired from her job at Totes/Isotoner for taking breaks to pump breast milk.

Allen admitted she took unauthorized breaks, and that's a firing offense. If she can't prove that someone said, "Ha! Now's our chance to get rid of her for being a woman!" then apparently, she can't prove discrimination.

This is a subject that is becoming more and more relevant to me as my delivery time approaches because I will need to pump at work.

The woman, LaNisa Allen, was fired for taking unauthorized breaks. I completely get the so called "logic" of the company for firing her but still think they are totally in the wrong and the bad publicity isn't worth their action.

I do agree with the court for upholding the company's actions, though perhaps not their reasoning. A private company should be allowed to fire people for pretty much any reason and I think most of the restrictions put on companies by the government suck.

Allen gave birth over five months prior to her termination from [Isotoner]. Pregnant [women] who give birth and choose not to breastfeed or pump their breasts do not continue to lactate for five months. Thus, Allen's condition of lactating was not a condition relating to pregnancy but rather a condition related to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding discrimination does not constitute gender discrimination.

Uh...right. She was just pumping for the sheer pleasure of it...got it.

So, it's a slippery slope. I don't think women deserve special treatment just for being women and giving birth. Men certainly don't get the same treatment when their wives give birth. I get the reasoning, but it's still discrimination in the strictest reading of the law.

If she took unauthorized breaks then she broke her employment contract and they can fire her. I don't get why she had to take unauthorized breaks. In our state it is required to receive two 15 minute breaks and at least 30 minutes for lunch in an 8 hour shift. Not sure why that's not enough time (just took a breast feeding class last night and they said with a double pump you can be done in 10 minutes).

Regardless of the court's decision...I think that Isotoner made a mistake. If they wanted to fire her for being a sucky employee they should have waited until she was done pumping and come up with another reason. If they really did fire her just for taking breaks to pump then they are lame and who would want to work for them anyway? I wouldn't.

And nor am I likely to make any purchases from them in the near future. I don't think the courts need to intervene - I think the markets will do a fine job of punishing the company for their decision. You know how uppity those breast feeding women can get. :) I smell a boycott.

While I think more women should breast feed, and that company's should support that, I still don't think Isotoner was *legally* wrong in what they did...morally and strategically wrong, yes.

I'll definitely want to share my experience from the breast feeding class last night but I'll save it for another post.


SpeakDog said...

Even after reading your link, and the original story in the Columbus Dispatch, the facts are a little murky. But, but here's my guess...

At the jobs I have had (restaurant and office), nursing mothers worked out a schedule with their supervisors. She was probably allowed a certain amount of time at certain times of the day to pump.

My guess is that she was taking advantage of the agreement and taking more time than deemed necessary, or taking breaks more often than allowed. They keep referring to her "workstation", which seems like she wasn't a desk jockey, but someone who worked on a line or something. Which would interrupt production for her to be gone without someone knowing about it.

Believe me... if there wasn't abundant proof that she was taking advantage (or if she had a record of poor behavior *before* these incidents), that company wouldn't have risked firing her.

There's a lot more to this story than meets the eye. The courts wouldn't have upheld the decision without a LOT of evidence that she was a poor employee to start with.

Just my $.02...

CastoCreations said...

TOTALLY agree. There has to be more to it but the breast feeding nazis will jump on her cause regardless. It's one thing to work out a pumping schedule and another to take advantage of the special need. :)

Tam said...

Speaking as an ex-management type:

If she'd been a good employee, she could have taken all the breaks she wanted for a good reason and they never would have fired her.

CastoCreations said...

Yeah...that makes a lot of sense Tam. I get away with a LOT at work. They have more than enough cause to fire me at any time ... but I'm a good worker. :)