Woman says judge's ruling on pumping breast milk was unfair

HOUSTON Thu Feb 9, 2012 7:12pm EST

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HOUSTON (Reuters) - A woman whose firing from her job over a request to pump breast milk was supported by a Texas judge said on Thursday the decision was unfair and discriminatory, and her lawyer an appeal was under consideration.

Donnicia Venters, who worked at a debt collection agency called Houston Funding, gave birth to a daughter in December, 2008. When she told a vice president of the company on Feb 17, 2009 that she wanted to make arrangements for a private place to pump breast milk she was told her position had been filled.

She received a termination notice in the mail a week later back-dated to February 16 citing "job abandonment," said Tim Bowne, a lawyer for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who represented her.

Venters sued the company but Judge Lynn Hughes last week dismissed the case, saying the complaint was not covered by a provision of the Civil Rights Act that prohibits discrimination because of pregnancy.

"She gave birth on December 11, 2008. After that day, she was no longer pregnant, and her pregnancy-related conditions had ended," Judge Hughes said in the ruling.

"I don't understand the judge's decision," Venters told Reuters in a brief interview. "A child needs a mother and mother's milk. It really isn't fair and it is discrimination. I just hope the law will be changed."

Venters' firing happened before a March, 2010 amendment to a separate law that requires employers to provide reasonable break time for a mother to express milk for a nursing child for one year after the child's birth. It also says employers must provide a private place for this activity, other than a bathroom.

But companies with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from this law if allowing breaks would impose an undue hardship.

(Editing by Greg McCune)

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