Former teacher alleges school district didn’t provide breast-pumping privacy.
Thursday, December 27, 2012
A local woman’s lawsuit against the Carmel Unified School District is getting national attention as it explores working mothers’ rights.
Sarah Boyle sued the district on Oct. 30, alleging administrators didn’t provide the accommodations she needed to pump milk for her newborn while at work—and she ultimately lost her job over it.
The story quickly spread to the Huffington Post, Yahoo News, Fox and Free Republic, among other national news sites.
Speaking at the office of her Monterey attorney, Kenneth J. Kroopf, in her first newspaper interview about the lawsuit, Boyle tells the Weekly she’s not suing for the money. “I want women to know their rights,” she says. “I didn’t.”
Boyle was hired in August 2010 as a two-year probationary teacher at Carmelo Child Development Center, where she taught 2-year-olds. She went on maternity leave in July 2011, returning two months later.
Boyle claims her manager balked at her request for one 15-minute break per day, telling her to train her breasts not to make milk during work hours.
After discussing the situation with her lactation consultant and son’s pediatrician, Boyle turned to the then-director of human resources, who allegedly arranged for Boyle to pump only two to three days of her five-day work week.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding through a baby’s first year. For working mothers, that often means mechanically pumping milk to be stored and fed to the baby by a caretaker.
California law requires employers to provide the necessary breaks and “adequate facilities”—a nearby private space other than a toilet stall—for breast pumping.
Boyle says she tried three different rooms, but was constantly interrupted by other employees and never found the privacy she needed to pump enough milk. As a result, she says, she had to wean her baby by six months. “I was hoping for a year at least,” she adds, choking up.
Despite a prior employment evaluation giving Boyle strong marks, the lawsuit states, administrators found her performance lacking six months later and declined to renew her contract.
“It’s clear to me it’s a case of retaliation,” Boyle says.
The district denies the allegations. San Jose attorney Mark Davis, representing CUSD, says the district has willingly accommodated at least 10 lactating employees since 2000.
“I do not believe the district received any complaints regarding breast feeding accommodations until after Ms. Boyle was advised that she would not be rehired,” he writes by e-mail. “The decision [to terminate]…had nothing to do with the fact that Ms. Boyle, like many other employees who are still at the district, would occasionally breast feed or breast pump while at work.”