California teacher sues school over breastfeeding rights

A mother breastfeeds her baby.

CARMEL: A former teacher and new mom in California is suing the Carmel Unified School District after being told to try to train her body not to lactate so she wouldn’t have to pump breast milk during working hours.

Sarah Ann Lewis Boyle was hired by the Carmelo School in August, 2010, to take care of kids age six months to four-years-old in their Child Development Centre. In September 2011, after the birth of her first child, she met with her supervisor to talk about her return from maternity leave. Her doctor wanted her to breastfeed her infant son, she said, and she would need 15 to 20 minutes each day between 9am and 11am to pump breast milk.

The request was well within the guidelines of California law, which states, “Every employer shall provide a reasonable amount of break time to accommodate an employee desiring to express breast milk for the employee’s infant child.” But, according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by Yahoo! Shine, instead of agreeing to Boyle’s request, her supervisor, Laura Schimmel-Dunn, allegedly told Boyle to start “training my breasts not to make milk between the hours of 7am and 1pm, so that she would not need to pump”.

When she asked how she should try to do that, the lawsuit says she was told to “push the feedings further and further apart” so that her newborn son “would not desire feedings during that time period”. The new mom felt that doing so would force her to “starve Sawyer slightly”. A few months later, Boyle was told that she was “not a good fit” for the school and her contract was not renewed.

“We believe that this whole thing is not only a violation of California labour laws, but that they retaliated against her and refused to renew her contract because of that,” Boyle’s lawyer, Kenneth J Kroopf, told Yahoo! Shine in an interview on Friday.

After Boyle talked to her lactation consultant and her child’s paediatrician, who wrote a letter to the school requesting that they allow her to pump breast milk, the senior director of human resources told Boyle that she had “misunderstood” and that they would find a way make sure she could pump “two to three days” a week.

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