Facts of the Case: LaNisa Allen appealed the original judgment in favor of Totes/Isotoner Corporation on the issue of whether the Ohio Fair Employment Practices Act, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, prohibits an employer from discriminating against a female employee because of or on the basis of lactation. Relevant law associated includes whether Allen established a prima facie case of “sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy,” or whether she “was simply and plainly terminated as an employee at will for taking an unauthorized, extra break.” Allen’s original complaint was termination attributable to discrimination, based on pregnancy and related conditions, even though Isotoner claimed to have released her for failure to “follow directions.”
Evidence admitted in Allen’s disposition of taking unauthorized breaks for a two week period, which constituted the failure to follow directions, confirmed the trial courts summary judgment. As the trial court granted judgment to Isotoner, the Twelfth District Court of Appeals followed suit, as Allen admitted to ignoring directions and failed to establish a prima facie case of sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and it’s after effects. Issues: Although the lower courts concentrated upon the apparent facts of the case, especially “Whether Allen’s unauthorized breaks to pump her breast in order to avoid lactation constituted as sex discrimination”; a more superior issue arises from this case. Assuming a proper prima facie case was established, “Is purported discrimination due to lactation included within the range of Ohio’s employment-discrimination statute, R.C. 4112.02, as sex discrimination under R.C. 4112.01(B)?” Decisions:
Ruling of the initial appeal of judgment in favor of Totes/Isotoner Corporation for discrimination Allen was affirmed. Subsequently, the Supreme Court of Ohio did not touch the issue of whether purported discrimination due to lactation is included within the range of Ohio’s employment-discrimination statute, R.C. 4112.02, as sex discrimination under R.C. 4112.01(B). An opinion of whether they thought this discrimination did fall in that range was included in Judge O’Connor’s judgment. Reasoning: Rationale leading the judges in a majority opinion to affirm the initial judgment, stemmed from the failure of Allen to develop a record from which a jury could find in her favor.
However, several of the judges felt “lactation is a physical condition associated with pregnancy and childbirth, hence the FEPA, as amended by the Ohio PDA, prohibits discrimination against females because they are lactating.” It is proposed that the Supreme Court of Ohio should reach the merits to clarify the laws. Separate Opinions: Judgment was affirmed by Judges Lundberg Stratton, O’Donnell, and Cupp, JJ. , as they believed Allen was discharged for taking unauthorized breaks from her scheduled employment. Since Allen failed to present evidence of a discriminatory motive from Isotoner, or that reason for releasing her from employment was a ground for discrimination, Lundberg Stratton, O’Donnell, and Cupp, JJ. felt only the issues presented by the facts of Isotoner discharging Allen due to ‘unauthorized breaks’ should be decided on, while issues of the facts not directly placed on issue should only be responded to with advisory opinion.
Judges Moyer, C.J. and O’Connor J. concurred in the foregoing judgment only. They assert lactation to fall within the scope of R.C. 4122.01(B) and that the statute prohibits employment discrimination against lactating women. Also, they oppose the claim of opinions regarding issues not directly placed on issue to be strictly advisory. “A cause will become moot only when it becomes impossible for a [***627] tribunal to grant meaningful relief, even if it were to rule in favor of the party seeking relief.” Moyer, C.J, and O’Connor J. claim these indirect issues to be live, not as remote possibilities or based on controversies that may never occur.
Their assertion that “lactation is a physical condition associated with pregnancy and childbirth, hence the FEPA, as amended by the Ohio PDA, prohibits discrimination against females because they are lactating” is fully discussed. Dissent is issued by Judge Peifer, J. as he declares the question needed answered by Ohioans was not resolute. Peifer, J. claimed “the court should analyze the case by asking (1) whether the plaintiff stated a cognizable cause of action and (2) whether the facts support the alleged cause of action.”
Emphasis was placed by Peifer, J. on the circumstance of unclear facts of the case such as why Allen’s unscheduled restroom breaks outside of scheduled break times were different from restroom trips made by coworkers outside of their scheduled break times. Also, Judge Peifer argued that cases should be accepted not because of how the result might affect the parties in the individual case, but because of how a holding might affect other persons similarly situated.
Peifer held “employment discrimination due to lactation as unlawful pursuant to R.C. 4112.01(B), that clear public policy justifies an exception to the employment-at-will doctrine for women fired for reasons relating to lactation, and that LaNisa Allen deserves the opportunity-due to the state of the record-to prove her claim before a jury.” Analysis: The significance of this case relates to the importance of establishing suitable evidence for a prima facie case and also to ruling on issues brought forward by cases.
Although the affirmed judgment in favor of Isotoner was applicable due to Allen’s failure to provide evidence of sex discrimination related to after effects of pregnancy, it is important for courts to reach a decision on such cases the holding will/has affected other persons similarly situated. Similar cases of discharge or unpaid circumstances have been previously governed, including Fejes v. Gilpin Ventures, Inc. 960 F. Supp 1487and Martinez v. N.B.C. Inc. 49 F.Supp.2d 305l, among others. Therefore sex discrimination due to the aftereffects of pregnancy affects many individuals in Ohio and throughout the United States, and therefore a ruling of whether purported discrimination due to lactation is included within the range of Ohio’s employment-discrimination statute, R.C. 4112.02, as sex discrimination under R.C. 4112.01(B) is vital in reducing sex discrimination in the workplace.
Courtney from Study Moose
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