The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kaplan, District Judge.
The transformation in the role of women in our culture and
workplace in recent decades and the civil rights movement perhaps
will be viewed as the defining social changes in American society
in this century. Both have resulted in important federal, state
and local legislation protecting those previously excluded from
important roles from discrimination in pursuit of the goal of
equality. Nevertheless, few would deny that the problems facing
women who wish to bear children while pursuing challenging
careers at the same time remain substantial. This case
illustrates one of those problems.
The core claim in this case is that plaintiff's employer, MSNBC
Cable LLC ("MSNBC") was insufficiently accommodating of
plaintiff's desire to pump breast milk in the workplace so that
she could breast feed her child while also returning to work
promptly after childbirth. She sues under the Americans With
Disabilities Act of 1990*fn1 (the "ADA") and Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended*fn2 ("Title VII").
Discovery having been completed, the defendants move for summary
judgment dismissing the complaint.
As the material evidentiary facts are not matters of
controversy and the dispositive questions concern the scope of
the antidiscrimination statutes upon which plaintiff relies, the
facts may be summarized briefly.
The principal defendant, MSNBC, is a 24-hour-a-day, all-news
cable television network launched in July 1996. In May 1996, it
hired plaintiff Alicia Martinez as an associate producer at a
salary of $47,000 per annum as a result of Martinez contacting
Bob Epstein, an MSNBC executive whom she had known in their prior
jobs at CBS. Before accepting the position, Martinez told Epstein
that she was pregnant.
Martinez decided that she would breast feed her son. When she
returned to work in March 1997, she bought an electric breast
pump to pump breast milk to feed her child when she was not
available to nurse him. With Walker's consent, Martinez left her
work to pump breast milk three times a day for periods of about
Martinez pumped breast milk in an empty edit room at MSNBC's
New Jersey studio without incident from May until late July. At
that point, someone tried to enter the room with a key while she
was inside, and she became upset. Two similar incidents occurred
over a few weeks. There is no reason to suppose that any of the
people who tried the door while Martinez was in the room knew
that she was there.
During this period, Martinez raised concerns about her privacy
with MSNBC human resources officials. She rejected a suggestion
that she simply put a "do not disturb" sign on the door. She
rejected also, for a variety of reasons, a number of alternative
sites offered by MSNBC.
When Martinez returned to full-time work in June 1997, her
basic schedule was Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 7 a.m. until 4
p.m. and Wednesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. But it
was well known that producers in her job at times were scheduled
to work additional hours to handle breaking news stories, program
needs and vacation schedules. Starting in August 1997, however,
difficulties began concerning the schedule. Martinez contends
that Walker became less accommodating of her scheduling concerns,
which revolved about her child care needs. In consequence, she
asked another MSNBC executive whether she could obtain a more
regular schedule if she moved back to an associate producer
position. She was told that she would have a more regular
schedule in such a position, but would have to work one weekend
day and take less money.
On approximately September 1, Martinez met with Epstein and
human resources personnel regarding the scheduling issue. Epstein
suggested the associate producer job. Martinez objected because
it would require her to work on weekends and said that she would
be looking for a job elsewhere. She said that she wished to
continue as a producer until she left provided MSNBC would give
her several weeks' notice of any schedule changes. Epstein
responded that she would have to work the hours required in order
to remain a producer.
While the dates are unclear, Martinez complains also of three
occasions on which a male co-worker allegedly made offensive
comments regarding her breast pumping.
On August 31, Princess Diana was killed, resulting in enormous
media coverage that continued through her funeral on September 6.
Mother Teresa died on September 5, which also resulted in
extensive media activity through her funeral on September 13.
These events placed enormous demands on MSNBC, which was in "24
[hour] coverage" and brought in everyone in Martinez's
department. Martinez, however, worked only one extra weekend