The ACLU of Illinois and a number of other organizations committed to achieving equal rights for women in employment, supporting pregnant and breastfeeding workers, and protecting against pregnancy and lactation discrimination in the workplace filed an amicus brief in the case Stachler v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago.
Lara Stachler is a speech language pathologist for the Chicago Public Schools who sought and was denied reasonable accommodations that would enable her to continue breastfeeding when she returned to work following childbirth, and was eventually forced to take a leave of absence from her job. The Circuit Court of Cook County dismissed a lawsuit that she filed against the Board of Education raising claims under the Illinois Human Rights Act and the Illinois Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act, and she appealed.
The amicus brief filed in the First District Appellate Court by the ACLU of Illinois in Ms. Stachler’s case provided critical background information for the court about the importance of breastfeeding, the health needs of lactating workers and complications that can occur when a breastfeeding parent cannot express breast milk as needed, and the workplace accommodations that lactating employees may need. It discussed how the lower court’s misapplication of the Illinois statutes requiring break time, space, and other reasonable accommodations for employees expressing breast milk at work undermined the very purpose of those statutes.
Breastfeeding provides unmatched health benefits for both parent and child. However, for many parents returning to work after giving birth, consistent breastfeeding can be difficult. Employment policies that facilitate expressing break milk at work are necessary to sustain the health benefits from breastfeeding and to prevent the negative consequences that arise when adequate break time and space for lactation are not provided. The Illinois Human Rights Act and Illinois Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act are two state laws that require employers to provide these and other reasonable accommodations to lactating employees.
The other organizations who joined this amicus brief were the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California College of the Law, San Francisco, the Chicago Region Breastfeeding Task Force, the National Employment Lawyers Association - Illinois, the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, and Women Employed.