A Supreme Court case is the subject of a Raw Story article titled Supreme Court Lets Stand Ruling that Firing Woman for Breastfeeding not Sexist Because Men Can Lactate.
The Raw Story does tend to sensationalize their headlines, and they do latch on (breastfeeding moms will get that pun) to a deeply buried part of the ruling when they shout about the “men can lactate” thing. A deeper reading of the case documents shows that the reasoning of the circuit court – and SCOTUS – centered on technical legalities. To whit: (thought I’d use a legal term) that the plaintiff did not show that her supervisor “intended” to fire her by engaging in hostile behavior designed to force her to resign.
Of course, SCOTUS had to stand on its head in contortionist mode in order to come to this conclusion, but still…
Despite the fact that SCOTUS did not find any fault with Nationwide, I still ask you to consider going to a different insurance company if you currently have insurance with them. I do this because it appears that, despite the supreme court’s decision, Nationwide seems to engage in discriminatory employment practices, and yes – maintains a hostile environment for its employees. I can’t tell (not enough information) if their practices are limited to women – or breastfeeding employees, specifically – or if their male employees also deal with them. Let me discuss a couple of the practices that show up in this case.
1. The manager in this case maintains that all employees in his department must keep current in their work even if they are off on leave. He maintains they must work overtime upon returning to catch up.
This is downright silly. At the very least, Nationwide should consider firing this manager. I don’t think he’s suitable management material. Seriously, what kind of rule is that? People take leave for all kinds of reasons and lengths of time. The courts involved in this case took pains to declare that this rule applied to “all employees in the department” and therefore was not discriminatory.
Okay. So a male worker has a triple bypass and must take three months off of work. This manager lets all the employee’s cases pile up on his desk until he returns, at which time he must put in weeks of overtime to finish the backlog while also completing new work.
Really? Really? Does that seem counter-productive to you? Dare I say… stupid… even? Is this any way to run a department and turn in timely work for the customers? Does Nationwide not hire temp workers? Or perhaps spread the work around to everyone else so they all pitch in to help? If it’s important that the department’s work gets done in a timely manner, why is the work allowed to pile up until the absent employee returns?
Honest, I can’t get my head around this, it’s so ridiculous. I can’t imagine this is truly done in actual practice. If it is, then the plaintiff clearly had to know about the practice and would have been expecting the extra work when she returned. Yet Nationwide’s argument never states that she knew about it ahead of time.
2. Breastfeeding employees must obtain a badge to use the lactation room. The employee must fill out a form, which takes three days to process before obtaining the badge.
I don’t like the idea of needing a badge. It treats employees as if they are children. But okay, you’re a new mother returning from maternity leave and you need to pump, so you need a badge. Let me remind you all that a breastfeeding mother MUST pump every few hours or her breasts get full, hard, and painful. Not pumping frequently can lead to infection, or (and this is important) losing her milk supply. She can’t wait three days for a damn badge.
Let me ask Nationwide’s Human Resources about this:
Is there some reason this badge is not automatically included in the employee’s paperwork when she returns? If any employee is out on medical leave, aren’t you required by law (I’m thinking the ADA) to accommodate his/her needs? Do you force the employee to return to work before beginning the process to obtain what is needed?
Isn’t it just a good business practice to perhaps have the badge ready so your employee can get right to work on that 3-month backlog and doesn’t waste time running around trying to figure out where to pump?
I realize that stupid business practices are not illegal. But these rules DO create a hostile environment. And I would love an investigation into whether they are really applied to all employees, all of the time, or if they are used only or mostly against women or new or breastfeeding mothers.
Because that is illegal. And stupid, too.