Tuesday, August 7

Breastfeeding and the employer's duty to accommodate

Bell Canada worker Hayley Cole claimed her employer did not accommodate her need for a work schedule so she could breastfeed her infant. Physicians had recommended the infant, who has a congenital heart defect, be breastfed as long as possible to strengthen his immune system. Cole’s request to end her day 1 hr earlier (unpaid) was denied. Her request for a guaranteed 4pm end of shift was eventually granted for one year but she had to provide medical documentation requiring repeated visits to her doctor.


In April 2007, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that Bell failed to adequately accommodate Cole’s needs, mischaracterizing her as a disabled or ill employee.

“In order for a working mother to bestow on her child the benefits that nursing can provide, she may require a degree of accommodation. Otherwise, she may end up facing a difficult choice … stop nursing to continue working …; (or) abandon your job to ensure that your child will be breastfed.

This dilemma … has the potential to create the type of obstacle that would deny women an "opportunity equal to others”.” The Tribunal ordered Bell to establish a policy on accommodation; pay $7,000 compensation and wages lost getting medical notes.

1 comment:

KL said...

This ruling is amazing. I hope it leads the way to more large corporations understanding the rights of mothers as they return to work.