Woman Fired for Requesting Breastfeeding Rights Okayed because “Men Lactate, Too”

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Image via Flickr/ maessive

For the 15 months or so that I've written for EverydayFamily, I've gotten a pretty good feel for what moms are passionate about. One thing that seems to be a common theme is the right to accommodations for breastfeeding and pumping. I think it's perfectly fine, but there are others who don't necessarily agree.

Like the department head and supervisor at a Nationwide Insurance branch. You know, the same insurance company that released the depressing Super Bowl ad about the dead kid.

Yup. Same people. 

Yeah, these employees weren't too thrilled about the whole breastfeeding thing — the feeding a human child thing.

Angela Ames, a former employee at Nationwide, was just returning from an eight-week hiatus because of the birth of her second child. For obvious reasons, she needed somewhere to pump, so she started asking around for where within the office she would be allowed to do that. So she tracked down her department head and asked where she could pump, and was told it was “not her job,” meaning, “not my problem.”

So compassionate.

With absolutely no help from her department head, she was sent to the nurse, who informed her that they did indeed have a place for her to pump but that she wasn't allowed to use it for several more days because there was still some paperwork that she needed to fill out — paperwork that was related to her maternity leave and her return. 

{ MORE: Your Workplace Rights During Your Baby’s First Year }

To make matters even worse, the nurse (the nurse, for crying out loud!) sent her to a room that was the regular hangout place for employees that decided to roll into work with a bit of a cold or a bit of the flu — really any sickness — which, 1) is in no way fit for a breastfeeding mother and 2) was occupied by someone else at the time.

By this time, Angela's options were becoming, like herself, exhausted. So she decided to go to her department head and solicit help. And the response? Anyone? Yeah. She was told, and I quote, “Just go home to be with your babies.” (Not to mention that the company informed her they would be holding her accountable for the eight weeks' worth of work that she missed while she was with her baby. In two weeks' time.)

To further the help, the department head helped her write a resignation letter, presumably so the company wouldn't have to shell out anything that resembled a severance package.

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When she took this to the Supreme Court, they said two things:

  1. You didn't even get fired from your job; you resigned.
  2. Even if you had been fired, there's no way it could be challenged legally as sex discrimination because men can lactate, too.

Men lactate, too.

What!?

{ MORE: 5 Workplace Rights That Every Pregnant Woman Needs To Know }

With that being said, I just want to open it up for you? What do you think about this? Fair? Unfair? Absolutely absurd?

What do you think?

Woman Fired for Requesting Breastfeeding Rights Okayed because “Men Lactate, Too”

Jace Whatcott is a self-diagnosed introvert who loves crossword puzzles, golf, and reading. Despite being a male contributor—one of the few on this particular website—he is not in unfamiliar territory. Because he is an English major, 90% of his classmates are females, so he’s not too worried about being a fish out of water. One of his favorite things to do is to raid local thrift stores for used books. He’s always looking for something to read, or for something to put on his endless to-r ... More

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36 comments

  1. JQBMom says:

    If I still had Nationwide Insurance, I would be cancelling it TONIGHT.

  2. Kimberly says:

    I think it’s crazy how women get fired for
    Breastfeeding & she was aloud to be on maternity leave that was wrong how her ex boss did her best of luck to you & I’ll pray that you will get another job soon hopefully a better paying job anyway

  3. michelle says:

    This is absolutely absurd and disgusting!!!! I can’t even believe these issues are still going on! I thought it was like a law or something now that they had to provide time and space to breastfeed/pump. I’m so sorry you had to be in this position that it forced you to lose your job. Best of luck in the future

  4. Crystal says:

    I agree that the company is in the wrong- there are laws to protect nursing mothers. At the sane time I’m wondering how old this woman is because there’s no way I would have signed or even written a letter that remotely took the responsibility away from the company and made me look like a fool- and I had my first when I was 18. Because of that letter, I don’t know if shr can pursue any further legal action- she should try but that letter will be hard to overlook amd overturn.

  5. Katrina says:

    SHAME on every one of these people. This company should be put out of business.

  6. Chelsea says:

    It is scientific fact that men can lactate at any time of their lives. We actually do have a lot in common when it comes to men and women. Like, bet u didnt know that some men can even have a period its a different cycle cuz they dont carry eggs but yes its true. This story exaggerated or not it still isnt right. Women by law have the right to breastfeed or pump wherever and whenever. Women shouldnt even have to ask permission from their bosses or anyone to do these things because 1) They r feeding a human being 2) we as mothers are not going to starve our children just to please certain people 3) which should have really been #1 their mothers did the same thing and if they didnt then that must be why they are so damn heartless to think twice about denying womens legal right to breastfeed or pump. Damn anyone who thinks any different.

  7. Charlotte says:

    I could be upset about this, but I’ve read about it elsewhere and this is an exaggerated and misinterpreted version of what happened that’s being spread around. Stop spreading lies.

    • Melissa says:

      I would love to read this version that you say is “true” as well. Maybe that one is not the “true” version. Maybe neither is true. How do you know that the other is true? If it says “true version” or “based on a true story”, should we automatically assume it’s true just because the author felt the necessity to validate his story through the use of those words. Is the “true story” always the one you hear on the news? What I’ve come to realize is that the “news” is what makes good TV as long as it fits mainstream society’s approval, is severely tragic (to play with our heart strings), highlights democratic ideals (no, I’m not a republican or democrat), or is good for big business. The reality is; it’s hard to believe just about anything we read or see on TV to know the truth. I get tired of watching elected officials speak and then watching the media’s spin on what they thought… It would be nice if we could all just tell the truth… Nothing more, nothing less.

      • Charlotte says:

        You’re believing this as fact, where are his references to what happened?
        How about actually reading the supreme court opinion to get what the case is about.
        This is an obviously biased piece, why are you taking it at face value?
        You’re more than welcome to read the supreme court opinion. The internet is full of biased opinions furthering an agenda, but just the mainstream news. I don’t watch the news, it’s obviously liberally biased. I try to read my news from the source and question anything I read that isn’t, like this.

    • Simplicity says:

      Where did you read the true version? I would love to read that one.

  8. Rhyaan says:

    Upset is no where near how I feel. Seriously! I am absolutely speechless at how inconsiderate and ignorant the people involved (aside from the mother) are. I am going to share this cause AllState seriously has boldly crossed the line. I hope they get shut down.

  9. Sheena says:

    I’m very upset by this, as a mommy to 2 young children I nursed them both & also pumped so they could be fed while I was working and so that my husband could feel close to them during bottle feedings. He felt a bit left out when I was only breastfeeding!! If he could’ve lactated and nursed our son & daughter, believe me, he’d have loved that bonding experience!!! This is absurd!

  10. Pamela says:

    LOL MEN LACTATE TOO????? maybe but im pretty sure (NOT positive, eye roll) that if and when they do ….its NOT to feed their child!!! i was actually denied a promotion years ago when i was pregnant with my son because the district manager couldnt have babies and she flat out told me that because i was 3 months pregnant and she had spent her entire life savings in the past two years trying to get pregnant there was no way she could give me the promotion and have to see me pregnant on a regular basis (weekly) !! i was stunned and hurt and when she found out i was breast feeding my older son still, she made it so i could no longer have my husband bring him to my job and breast feed him on my break and lunch!!! so if my husband could have lactated then would have made my life alot easier and more pleasant for my son who had to be weaned quickly instead of how my husband and i planned it and he poor lil guy went cold turkey had a very unhappy 14 month old for awhile all to keep my job and to placate a biased woman i felt bad for her till she ended up firing me when i had to have 10 weeks off after the birth of my youngest son because of complications have his birth!!! but seriously i want to see a man breast feeding a baby and actually nourish that baby then maybe, just maybe ill believe men lactate too!!!!

    • michelle says:

      People are so ignorant!! I’m so sorry you had to deal with that crap. I hope everyone is happy & healthy now!!

    • Sheena says:

      What a horrible thing to put a mother through!! She was trying to what’s best for her baby! The woman should’ve been encouraged, not forced to resign and “go home to her babies”!! I Wish this mommy all the best and hope that she’s found a better job without discrimination….

  11. Melissa says:

    I think any woman in that situation should refuse to resign. Then if she is fired, the following day she should bring her baby to the front steps of the building, sit down, and nurse the baby right there.

    It seems to me that the same women who have pushed for career equality are joining their male counterparts and bullying women who choose to be Mothers. Why exactly are Mothers treated so badly?

    • I agree. It seems the world has tried too hard and too long to equalize men and women that motherhood is frowned upon and has forgotten the important roles that both men and women play; different roles but both just as important. It’s shameful. Being a mother is probably the most wonderful job anyone could have and the most rewarding. Anyone who thinks otherwise has never had the privilege of holding ‘their’ little angel in their arms.

    • Sheena says:

      It seems very sexist and completely unfair for any mommy to be treated so poorly for trying to make the best decisions for her child…. SMH!

  12. LittleElf says:

    I worked for a Walmart distribution center in Oregon and they were really good about everything when I had my first child.When you work there you accrue sick leave and personal time for however many hours you work.You are allowed to use them when you go on maternity leave wich helps a lot.When I came back and needed to pump they gave me a key for a nice private quiet room I could use and it even had a mini fridge so I could put my breast milk in it.A lot of that has to do with Oregon law.Oregon is also really good to it’s expecting mamas/mamas.You hear a lot of bad things about working for Walmart but sounds like they were better to work for than nationwide.But then I didn’t work for a store and at the dc made almost $20 an hour.But they were always really good about everything even giving me longer lunches so I could go home and feed my daughter and take milk home.

    • Sheena says:

      That’s wonderful!! I wish more businesses and jobs understood the importance of nursing our babies…. I too was very lucky when it came to how my bosses treated me & my babies on this subject! For that I am so thankful.

  13. Lanas mom says:

    I actually work for nationwide I had a baby a year ago and it was the worse work experience. I left at 7 months and was put on disability. State accepted my paperwork from my insurance yet Nationwides 3rd party vendor Sedgwig denied it saying my obgyn couldn’t put me off for a pregnancy related issue. Well my insurance company said to get a lawyer. I didn’t I went to a spec because my edema was bad and they wrote me off which was adv to me by the spec “you’re legally on disability already. Anyhoo I was forced to return 2 weeks paid early not to include the 6 unpaid weeks I had left. The state called me to advise me that I still had 2 was paid so I pushed back to Sedgwick who approves all disability for NW. I don’t roll over and I don’t owe this company crap! I took my additional 2 wks. I live in CA for a reason! They protect their pregnancy/mother rights! So I can believe everything she said about the nursing room. My experience with that was negative as well. We’re on production and basically they didn’t accoint for the time u were using the nursing room. Nurse told me “if you need extra time you need to come in early or stay later” so I gave her my two cents! Didn’t change anything. NW is NOT on their employees side what so ever! Horrible company to work for In Regards to how they treat us who make them all the damn money!

    • Sheena says:

      This is extremely upsetting and I feel bad for these mothers who just doing what’s best for theirs children!!! So sad and I really think it’s sexist and discriminating as well…. I Feel for all of you who just want to nourish your babies and make, what I believe is an amazing choice to give your kids a great start to a healthy life!

  14. Samantha says:

    This is ridiculous in most places you will be discriminated for the actual act of pumping even though you are told it s ok and will be allowed time to do so. It is our right to feed our babes as we choose yet there is such social stigma towards breast feeding! Further more since enough lactate they need to let the babes latch on and nurse pick up the slack for us mommas!

  15. Seraluna says:

    Well, it did one thing. We’re moving into our first house next month and I was about to purchase our mortgage insurance through them. It was a toss up between them and Allstate. Had our lender drawing up the papers Monday and everything (so you published this at an awesome moment!). One account may not be much, but it’s at least a nod we can give to this poor lady. Nationwide, mmmmmmmmmm….bye-bye!

  16. Lydia says:

    1. You better believe this would never happen to a man
    2. Pregnancy Is a normal human event. Women need to quit allowing themselves to be bullied for being pregnant. If someone broke their leg and had to be in a wheelchair for 9 months they would be found a “desk” job, not be told they are less productive!!
    3. Nationwide isn’t making any friends around here!!! CANCEL MY POLICY!!!

    • Sheena says:

      Very well said! I Agree that it’s totally sexist and extremely unfair to mommy’s who are only giving their children a great and healthy head start in life!!!

  17. First says:

    She should have stood up for herself, it is almost like she should sue Nationwide for discrimination because there are laws out there to protect mothers who breastfeed.

  18. Jennifer says:

    I think both parties were wrong in this case. The company really should have worked with her better on providing a spot where she could pump. However, she also should have stood up for her rights and refused to sign the resignation letter. I really think saying “go home and be with your babies” was entirely inconsiderate of the company.

  19. Alison says:

    It seems like the company really should have had better communication with this woman throughout the entire situation before saying “go home and be with your babies”. She could have done more to defend herself.

    I can definitely relate though. I’m almost 30 weeks pregnant and my immediate supervisor has been abusing me since the end of November, from increasing my workload- forcing me to be on my feet constantly 6 days a week, publicly being reprimanded for not doing heavy lifting because “pregnancy is not a disability”, spend minimal time in the office, so no snacking. Meanwhile she doesn’t do much. I finally told my doctor everything last week and she faxed over a note to keep me out of work at that place until further notice. At this point, I just landed a new job where I can work from home.

    • Kelly says:

      I totally understand where you are coming from I work at a hospital a place that is supposed to be about health. When I became pregnant I was still expected to help lift patients and go into rooms where patients were highly contagious. I fought tooth and nail to get a desk job, which they finally accommodated after making me feel like an ass for standing up for myself. Why out of all the countries in the world does the US treat pregnancy/motherhood like something not important? The almighty dollar that’s why.
      Good for you that you can work from home, my baby is almost 3 months and I have to get ready to go back to my 12 hour shifts…ouch.

  20. Natasha says:

    I thought is was a law that a work place had to provide a place for a breastfeeding mother to pump? And how can they make her pay for the time she was off? This makes no sense to me because I just had a baby 10 months ago.

    • Sheena says:

      Most understanding companies or employers do comply with this and allow mothers to either nurse or pump…..

    • First says:

      If they they have 50 employees then they are not required by law to provide a place for a mother to pump. I pretty sure that the Family Medical Leave act is suppose to prevent things like that happening, meaning her having to do the work that she missed while away.

  21. Autumn says:

    I really feel that is absolute BS. I can relate on a somewhat different level, not with having baby yet and breastfeeding, but with being pregnant. And being told my production was bad, after they already said it was an ok amount, and that I should go focus on being pregnant and having a baby instead.

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