FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New York, NY, October 28, 2014 – Ending a year-long battle over the rights of female sheet metal workers who reported being pushed out of their jobs due to their gender, the court yesterday approved the consent decree Legal Momentum had negotiated in collaboration with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) with the women’s former employer, Vamco Sheet Metals, Inc.
Legal Momentum initially intervened in December of last year after the EEOC filed a lawsuit against the New York-based construction company in order to represent four female sheet metal workers whose charges had prompted EEOC’s initial investigation into the company’s practices. The lawsuit, which followed on the heels of that investigation, alleged that women had been subjected to discriminatory workplace conditions and had ultimately lost their jobs because the company preferred employing men. In addition, both EEOC’s and Legal Momentum’s complaint noted that one of the women had been denied time and space to express milk for her infant son even though she had told her supervisor that she was a nursing mother in need of accommodation.
Affirming Legal Momentum’s right to intervene in a ruling issued this past March, the Magistrate Judge stressed that Pregnancy Discrimination Act protects nursing employees from being harassed or terminated by their employers in response to accommodation requests. This ruling, which was subsequently affirmed by the district court, is the first in the Second Circuit to extend the landmark ruling Fifth Circuit reached last year by recognizing that the expression of milk is protected under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
“The right to breastfeed without worrying about losing your job is particularly valuable to women in nontraditional work settings like construction,” noted Carol Robles-Roman, Legal Momentum’s President and CEO. “We are glad that the courts have begun paving the way for more expansive workplace protections for nursing employees, and we look forward to working to ensure that these rights are implemented in workplaces across America.”
Beyond guaranteeing the right to a reasonable workplace accommodation for nursing employees, the decree commits the company to fair employment practices to ensure that qualified women are not kept out of the industry whose workforce is still mostly composed of men.
”Safeguarding the workplace rights of women who are particularly vulnerable to discrimination has long been our priority,” said Jelena Kolic, Legal Momentum’s staff attorney. “This case has been an important part of our efforts to improve women’s access to non-traditional jobs and ensure fair treatment for working mothers. We are glad that we were able to reach an agreement that advances both goals.”
The full text of the final consent decree can be found at Legal Momentum’s website at https://www.legalmomentum.org/resources/eeoc-v-vamco-sheet-metals-consent-decree.
About Legal Momentum
Legal Momentum is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1970 to advance the rights of women across the nation by using the power of the law and creating innovative public policy in three broad areas: economic justice, freedom from gender-based violence, and equality under the law. Successful initiatives include judicial education programs on the realities of sexual assault, domestic violence, and their intersection; successful advocacy for the Violence Against Women Act and for expanded protections for Native American and other survivors of violence in its 2013 reauthorization; and representing women who have been subjected to workplace pregnancy and gender discrimination with precedent-setting litigation. For more information, visit www.legalmomentum.org.