NewYorkUniversity
LawReview
Current Issue

Volume 76, Number 1

April 2001

Reclaiming Title VII and the PDA: Prohibiting Workplace Discrimination Against Breastfeeding Women

Diana Kasdan

A number of claims brought in federal courts across the United States document stories of working mothers who have encountered workplace discrimination directed at their breastfeeding status. Federal courts considering these claims uniformly have agreed that sex discrimination based on breastfeeding is not actionable under Title VII as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). In this Note, Diana Kasdan argues that this jurisprudence fails to consider the intent of the PDA and instead revives the flawed and rejected analysis of General Electric Co. v. Gilbert, which, prior to enactment of the PDA, wrongly held that discrimination directed at a gender-specific condition such as pregnancy was not Title VII sex discrimination. In critiquing these cases, Kasdan suggests that they ignore the gender-specific nature of breastfeeding, thereby improperly foreclosing the application of Title VII to breastfeeding-based claims. She argues that the statutory language, legislative intent, and Supreme Court interpretation of the PDA support an interpretation that includes breastfeeding within the scope of Title VII’s antidiscrimination protections. Finally, Kasdan concludes that such an interpretation of the PDA is essential to preserving the integrity of Title VII law and ensuring the advancement of women in the workforce and public life.