A former teacher in Monterey, Calif., is claiming she was fired from her job after a dispute with her supervisor over whether and when she could pump breast milk at work.
Sarah Ann Boyle filed a lawsuit against the Carmel Unified School District on Oct. 30 alleging wrongful termination after she was asked to resign from her job just months after her supervisors disregarded her request to pump her breast milk at school, according to court documents.
Boyle said that she notified her supervisor before she returned to work from pregnancy leave that she would need a 15- to 20-minute break every morning between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. in order to pump her breast milk for her newborn son.
The supervisor, in response, told Boyle to train her "breasts not to make milk between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., so that she would not need to pump," according to the lawsuit.
The supervisor further told Boyle to "push the feedings further and further apart," which the lawsuit equated with being told to starve the newborn "slightly."
Boyle declined to be interviewed by ABC News, and the school district did not return calls for comment.
Boyle's attorney, Kenneth Kroopf, said that the school violated California law by not accommodating Boyle's request. Boyle was advised by her doctors that her child needed breast milk, and was advised by a lactation expert to pump the milk each morning, Kroopf said.
"She needed this accommodation, and in California, the labor code allows for reasonable accommodation to work out something. It's a break she needed, 15 to 20 minutes day, an unpaid break," Kroopf said.
Kroopf said he wrote letters requesting a meeting with the school district to work out the complaint before filing the lawsuit, but was turned down.
In the suit, Boyle claimed that she went to her lactation consultant to discuss her supervisor's suggestion, and was told it wasn't a good idea and she should report it to human resources. Boyle said that she was then brushed off by her human resources manager, who promised that they would set up a schedule for the pumping but then failed to follow through.
"Because it was difficult, and at times virtually impossible for [Boyle] to breast pump milk in private, and without jeopardizing the safety of the children in her care ... she was forced to utilize a classroom bathroom, with a Dutch door half open," the lawsuit read.
"The anxiety affected her ability to pump breast milk," Kroopf added.
Three months later, Boyle's supervisor said she did not meet her teaching standards during an evaluation and would likely not be rehired. She was told she was "not a good fit" for the school by her human resources manager and urged to resign, according to the suit.
Boyle said that her two prior evaluations gave her all passing marks.
"She was a probationary employee," Kroopf said. "She passed her first two years with flying colors, and within a few months she gets a report saying, 'Well, you're just not a good fit for us.' You know, coincidence or retaliation? That's the question."
Kroopf noted that Boyle was suing for unspecified damage, and that state law allows for as much as $100 per incident of not being accommodated for her request to pump breast milk. He said he expects the case will be settled in a confidential agreement.
The school district has not yet answered the complaint in court.