Rekha Besu: U.S. Lags Far Behind In Gender Equity

By Rekha Basu (Opinion)
Des Moines Register.

On her first day back at work after having a baby, Angela Ames, a loss mitigation specialist at Nationwide Insurance in Des Moines, tried repeatedly to find a clean, private place to pump her breast milk. As anyone who has done that knows, it can’t easily wait, but she said no appropriate room was available.

In pain from the pressure, Ames approached her department head, who handed her a pen and paper and dictated a resignation letter for her to sign. So contends an appeal in a suit in which the American Civil Liberties Union Women’s Rights Project, supported by the Iowa ACLU and 11 other organizations, has filed a friend of the court brief. It claims Ames’ superior told her, “I think it would be best for you to go home and be with your babies.”

Thinking she was being ordered to quit, Ames did as told, the suit alleged. But the U.S. District Court dismissed the case, not persuaded the boss’s comments implied that. And last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld that ruling. It is now being asked to rehear the case.

Ames’ suit alleges the same department head called her during her maternity leave to say the company had miscalculated her leave, and she’d have to return weeks earlier or face problems.

Also on her first day back, Ames’ immediate supervisor allegedly told her she had two weeks to complete what didn’t get done during her eight-week leave or face discipline. And the appeal says the company requires nursing mothers to wait three days after returning to work before using the lactation room, something the company denies.

Nationwide said in a written statement that lactation rooms were occupied, and alternative options were provided but were declined. It also said, without specifying, that many comments attributed to Nationwide personnel were inaccurate or taken out of context.

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