Jury Awards over $1.5 Million to Delaware Worker in Breastfeeding Discrimination Case
February 14, 2019
Publication| Labor & Employment
Last week a jury awarded a Delaware worker, Autumn Lampkins, $25,000 in compensatory damages and $1.5 million in punitive damages against her employer, a fast-food restaurant franchisee. The lawsuit, filed in Delaware District Court, claimed that Ms. Lampkins’ supervisors and co-workers made it difficult for her to pump breast milk during her shift. This ultimately led to her milk supply drying up, which made her unable to breastfeed her infant son.
In her gender discrimination and hostile work environment lawsuit, Ms. Lampkins alleged that she was often unable to pump when needed, claiming that she was only allowed to pump once during her ten-hour training shift and not every two hours as recommended. Additionally, she had to pump in a single-stall bathroom before being given permission to pump in the manager’s office. However, the manager’s office had unblocked windows and an unlocked door, providing little privacy from other employees. There was also a surveillance camera in the office that could not be turned off. Ms. Lampkins claimed that her co-workers occasionally watched her pumping in the office. She further alleged that her employer demoted her and transferred her to another restaurant so that “it would be easier” for her. Ultimately, Ms. Lampkins felt that she had to resign for fear that she would be terminated.
After a five-day trial, the jury found that the employer unlawfully discriminated against Ms. Lampkins and subjected her to a hostile work environment by demoting her and reducing her hours because she was lactating. Additionally, the jury determined that the employer failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent harassment in the workplace on the basis of sex, including in relation to lactation. The jury also found that the employer unlawfully created or subjected Ms. Lampkins to working conditions so intolerable that a reasonable person would have felt compelled to resign.
This case serves as an important reminder that Delaware employers must provide reasonable accommodations to workers who have known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions, including reasonable break times and a private, comfortable space for nursing mothers.