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Lactating KFC Employee Able To Use Denial Of Proper Place To Express Milk As Evidence In Her Sex Harassment Claims

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for up to one year after the child’s birth.  Employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.  While a potential violation of the FLSA directly if these requirements are not met, a federal trial judge in Delaware recently decided that a woman accusing Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) franchisee of sex bias and sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was permitted to present at trial evidence that she was denied access to a private place to express breast milk, and other related events, in support of her Title VII sex discrimination and harassment claims.

Ms. Lampkins first had to use a single-stall public restroom to pump/express breast milk.  After employees complained that she was tying up the restroom, she was later told to use the manager’s office.  This did not work out well for her either.  Other employees would walk in on her.  Indeed, one male employee felt entitled to enter the office whenever he pleased without knocking, and would use a key to enter if Ms. Lampkins had locked the door.  This same man told her she should pump her breast milk at home.  The trial court ruled all of this was relevant to her sexual harassment claim.

Ms. Lampkins also complained that the denial or limits on her breastfeeding breaks, along with the privacy invasion, was relevant to her harassment claims.  The trial court disagreed, noting that Title VII is not an accommodations statute.  The trial court, however, did conclude that this evidence was relevant to her sex bias claims, and could be admissible for that purpose.  On that ground, Ms. Lampkins was challenging her demotion to a lesser paying shift supervisor position and her transfer with fewer hours to a store in Dover, all of which she claims was motivated by her status as a lactating female.

Shortly after the ruling, the trial began and the jury ultimately awarded Ms. Lampkins $25,000 in compensatory damages and $1.5 million in punitive damages for her claims, concluding that her demotion, transfer, cut in pay were all tied to her lactation.  The case is Lampkins v. Mitra QSR KNE, LLC, No. 16-647 (D. Del. Jury Verdict, Feb. 8 2019).

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