Gender Justice Complaint Accuses Shane Co. of Discrimination Against Breastfeeding Employee
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 19, 2018
Erin Hart, Communications Director
Earlier today, Gender Justice filed a new complaint in Hennepin County State Court behalf of Rachel Pierce, a former sales associate at jeweler Shane Co. in Minnetonka. Pierce alleges that her managers harassed and ultimately forced her to quit by refusing to provide reasonable time and space for her to pump breast milk for her infant daughter. Gender Justice argues that their actions violated Minnesota laws protecting parents in the workplace and prohibiting sex discrimination.
Following the birth of her daughter, Pierce returned to work at Shane Co. in January, 2017, and immediately ran into hostility to her requests for break time and a private space to pump breast milk. She tried for months to make the stressful situation work, ending up with painful, swollen breasts, a diminishing milk supply, and humiliation when colleagues walked in as she used a breast pump. The final straw came when her daughter’s pediatrician told Rachel that the baby wasn’t gaining weight as she should.
“For months, I did my best to find a way to provide enough milk for my daughter and maintain my schedule, in spite of the stress and pain it was causing. Over time, I began to realize the predicament I’d been put in – I could either nurse my child or keep my job at Shane Co., but not both,” said Pierce.
“As much as I needed the income, my daughter’s health was my top priority. My only real option was to leave.”
The complaint drafted by Gender Justice draws on two state laws designed to protect workers rights and prohibit discrimination: 1) The Women’s Economic Security Act, which requires employers to provide reasonable break time and an appropriate space to employees who need to pump breast milk. 2) Minnesota Human Rights Act (“MHRA”) broadly prohibits employment discrimination based on sex.
“Minnesota has the second-highest rate of working mothers in the country,” said Gender Justice Staff Attorney Christy Hall. “and nearly 90 percent of Minnesota mothers breastfeed at some point. Parents like Rachel are the norm, and her requests were not only reasonable – they are required by law. She was a dedicated sales associate who had received consistently positive reviews. Yet her managers refused even the minimum accommodations required for nursing employees, placing impossible barriers on her ability to succeed in her job. Their actions are clear violations of Minnesota law.”