On Thursday, October 26th, 2017 a federal judge allowed a Chicago Fire Department (CFD) paramedic to pursue her discrimination lawsuit against the City of Chicago. The case arises from CFD’s treatment of Sarah Spriesch related both to her pregnancy and need to express breastmilk upon her return to work after childbirth. 

The below statement can be attributed to Lorie Chaiten, Director of the Women’s and Reproductive Rights Project, ACLU of Illinois:

“When CFD learned that Ms. Spriesch was pregnant, they immediately forced her onto leave and required her to remain on leave for the duration of her pregnancy. Pursuant to CFD policy, not only was Ms. Spriesch forbidden to work, she was confined to her home (with minor exceptions) for the entire multi-month leave. She could not attend family events or activities with her children, or even go to the gym. When Ms. Spriesch returned to work after childbirth, CFD denied her breaks and a clean place for expressing breast milk, then retaliated against her for complaining about CFD’s violations of the law.

U. S. District Judge Sara Ellis issued a ruling in response to the City’s partial motion to dismiss Ms. Spriesch’s claims. Judge Ellis permitted the case to move forward under the Illinois Human Rights Act, the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Illinois Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. Judge Ellis’ ruling made clear that Illinois women can bring a private action under the Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act when their employers deny them breaks and a clean space to pump in the workplace, the first time this issue has been resolved by the courts.

Sadly, Ms. Spriesch’s experiences at CFD are all too common. The City of Chicago has done little to address these systemic problems and has yet to adopt real policies to accommodate pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions like lactation. Thursday’s court opinion marks an important step forward for women seeking equal treatment as employees of the City of Chicago.”

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