Can worker sue employer for violating health reform law’s breastfeeding provisions?


Stephanie returned to her convenience store job after the birth of her child. A nursing mother, she needed to express breast milk while working in order to meet her infant’s nutritional needs. Her supervisor assured her that the store’s office was a secure and private place to express breast milk. However, while she was pumping milk, she noticed an operating video camera in the office. Although she informed her employer of her discomfort with the camera, she was told to place a plastic bag over it. No other accommodations were offered.

As a result, Stephanie was unable to relax and her milk production dropped, jeopardizing her ability to meet her infant’s nutritional needs. Moreover, after she complained, she was reprimanded for failing to fill an ice cream machine, failing to put hot dogs on a grill, and leaving dirty dishes. She filed suit alleging violations of Fair Labor Standards Act Sec. 207(r), which sets forth the breastfeeding rights enacted under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), and constructive retaliatory discharge. Will she be successful?


No, not on her claim under PPACA. In a case with similar facts, a federal district court found that PPACA did not create a private right of action for employees to sue for violations of its requirement that employers provide both a reasonable amount of time for breastfeeding mothers to express breast milk and a private location in which to do so. Noting that the Department of Labor has interpreted the statute to limit an employee to filing claims directly with the agency, which may then seek injunctive relief in federal district court, the court dismissed the employee’s claim alleging that her employer breached the Act when it refused to respond to her complaints about a video camera that had been installed in the private office she used to pump milk. However, because the breastfeeding requirement was enacted as an amendment to the FLSA, the employee’s constructive discharge claim, alleging she suffered an adverse action for her complaints about the camera, survived under the FLSA’s anti-retaliation provision.

Source: Salz v. Casey’s Marketing Co. (NDIowa 2012) No 11-CV-3055-DEO.

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