An ex-employee at KFC has been awarded $1.5M following outcome of breastfeeding case
A former employee at KFC has been awarded around $1.5 million in damages after she suffered from workplace discrimination that made it impossible for her to breastfeed her child.
A lawsuit filed at U.S. District Court alleged that coworkers and managers at KFC and Taco bell restaurants in Kent County, Delaware made it so difficult for 27-year-old Autumn Lampkins to pump breast milk during her shifts that her supply dried up.
A jury corroborated the gender discrimination and harassment claims levelled at the fast food chains, as the lawsuit also argued that as well as not allowing her enough time to pump milk, there were so many surveillance cameras and windows that she could not do so in privacy.
On Friday, the jury ruled in favour of Lampkins, and awarded her $25,000 in compensatory damages, as well as a further $1.5 million in punitive damages. One of Lampkins' attorneys, Patrick Gallagher of Wilmington law firm Jacobs & Crumplar P.A., felt this was a huge victory for women's rights.
"It's a great day for women's rights," Gallagher said. "The jury sent a message that employers cannot treat lactating women differently in the workplace." According to the lawsuit, Lampkins was hired in 2014 shortly after giving birth to a son, and was assured that her decision to breastfeed would not be a problem.
But while it is recommended that new mothers pump milk at a rate of every two hours, Lampkins was only allowed to pump once every 10 hours. Initially deciding to pump in the bathroom, she was asked to pump in the manager's office, where there was a surveillance camera she was told couldn't be turned off.
Once her training was over, Lampkins was transferred to a KFC in Dover, where she was soon subjected to a demotion, while other employees complained that she had too many "breaks" to breast pump, as Lampkins said in her lawsuit, saying that her district manager Emily Martin said that her demotion was specifically due to her decision to breast pump.
"This was a demotion and not at Ms. Lampkins’ request. Emily Martin explicitly told Ms. Lampkins that her demotion to shift supervisor was because she was pumping breastmilk while at work."
"This willful, intentional, and unlawful gender-based harassment and discrimination violates the laws and regulations of both the United States … and the State of Delaware," says Lampkins in her lawsuit. She says she was suffering physical pain because of her inability to breast pump, and was even forced to move her baby onto formula a lot earlier than planned.
Although Lampkins was given a large lump-sum in her lawsuit victory, there is meant to be a limit to damages against employers. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that for even the biggest employers, the cap is $300,000.
Lampkins quit her job a few months later, once she learned that she was about to be fired after accidentally taking a customer's jacket home. An attorney for the defendant said she had no comment on the case.