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There’s a great moment in the comedy Meet the Parents when Robert DeNiro looks at Ben Stiller, after talk of how Stiller’s character once milked a cat because “you can milk anything with nipples,” and then says in that classic DeNiro voice: “I have nipples, Greg. Can you milk me?”
According to one recent trial court, the answer is yes.
The case brought before the court was that of former Nationwide Employee Angela Ames. According to a blog post published last week by Ames’ ALCU lawyer, Galen Sherwin, Ames was “was denied a place to pump breast milk when she returned to work from maternity leave. When she protested, Angela was coerced into resigning by her supervisor, who told her she should ‘just go home and be with your babies.’”
Ames sued the company for sex discrimination, but it has been dismissed at every turn, and in January, the Supreme Court rejected Ames’ petition for a review of those dismissals.
The blog post, which was published last week, details a number of reasons why the case was dismissed — including that the court said Ames didn’t complain internally before resigning, and that the ‘be with your babies’ comment was supposedly ‘gender neutral.’ But the most ridiculous is this: “The trial court also held, nonsensically, that even if Angela had been fired because she was breastfeeding that was not sex discrimination, in part because men can lactate under certain circumstances.”
Sherwin points out that “some men (including some trans men) can and do lactate. But it should also be self-evident that firing someone because they are breastfeeding is still a form of sex discrimination, and one that is all-too-frequently experienced by new mothers.” New fathers aren’t forced to battle engorgement discomfort and leaking breasts when they don’t have a private place to pump. Men pretty rarely start spontaneously leaking.
Writes Sherwin: “Angela’s case shines a harsh light on the multi-layered workings of structural discrimination: Workplace policies that don’t make space for the realities of pregnancy and motherhood, employers’ entrenched sex stereotypes and implicit bias, and courts that … still manage to turn a blind eye to the pervasive discrimination faced every day by working women.”