Former Employee Claims Nike Does Not Accommodate Nursing Mothers in New Lawsuit

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A former Nike employee has filed a class action lawsuit against the company claiming it does not accommodate postpartum and breastfeeding female employees in California who need to pump breastmilk while at work.

In the lawsuit filed Wednesday in the Superior Court of the State of California, former Nike employee Fantasia McDonald said the company did not accommodate her needs as a breastfeeding mother during her time of employment.

McDonald worked as a department manager at a Nike Factory Outlet Store in Calif. until she was fired on March 8, 2024. She had given birth to her son in 2021, prior to joining Nike, and had stopped breastfeeding him when she started her job there in Oct. 2022. But when she decided to resume breastfeeding in Aug. 2023, she claimed that Nike did not provide reasonable break times or suitable locations for her to pump.

California law mandates that employers provide reasonable break times and a private space with an electrical source, a refrigerator and a sink with running water, for lactating employees. McDonald alleges that Nike violated this law, as well as the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, which requires accommodations for lactation.

“When Ms. McDonald would request to pump outside of her scheduled breaks, management would comment that she was setting a bad example as a ‘coach’ (the term of Nike retail supervisors) for her subordinates and would deny the request,” the suit read. As such, McDonald said she would often drive ten minutes to pump on her lunch break at a friend’s house and would be “forced to express milk in the bathroom sink” while at work to relieve the pressure of her breasts.

Given the lack of accommodation, McDonald claimed her milk supply was reduced and she had to stop breastfeeding in Feb. 2024. In addition to her own experience, McDonald said in the filing she saw other employees face similar issues regarding their need to pump while at work.

“Simply put, Nike has failed in its obligation to provide nursing mothers with compliant lactation areas and sufficient break time to pump at its California retail stores,” said Michael Morrison, a partner at Alexander Morrison + Fehr LLP and one of the lawyers representing McDonald, in a statement to FN. “These failures are not trivial or a minor inconvenience to mothers. It forces them to choose between breastfeeding and their jobs, which is a choice no mother should have to make. We urge Nike to work with us to ensure its retail locations throughout California comply with the law and mothers have adequate time and opportunity to pump at work.”

Nike did not immediately return FN’s request for comment.

This isn’t the first time Nike has come under fire for its alleged mistreatment of mothers and mothers-to-be. Olympian Allyson Felix has openly called out Nike, her former sponsor, since she publicly split from the brand in 2019 over its unfair policies regarding pregnant athletes.

“My personal battle, especially during negotiations with Nike, was about ensuring women athletes aren’t financially penalized for becoming mothers,” Felix wrote in an open letter in March, highlighting her new brand’s maternity returns policy. “Though Nike eventually extended protections to all female athletes, it highlighted my choice to fight for myself and the future of all women in sports.”

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