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Lawsuit claims mother fired for pumping breast milk

DENVER — A Colorado mother claims in a federal lawsuit that she was fired from her hairstylist job after she sought to take periodic work breaks to pump breast milk but was rebuffed by an employer who called the idea “gross,” court documents showed on Tuesday.

Ashley Provino of Grand Junction said she asked permission from her employer, Big League Haircuts, to take breaks every four hours to pump breast milk for her infant son, according to a complaint filed on Monday in U.S. District Court in Denver by lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado.

Provino said the owner, Kyle Reed, “adamantly refused” her request, called the topic “gross,” retaliated by cutting her hours so she never worked more than four hours at a time, and ultimately fired her.

“Discrimination against breastfeeding mothers in the workplace is not only illegal, it is also bad for Colorado families and businesses, because it forces women out of the workplace,” ACLU cooperating attorney Paula Greisen said in a statement.

Reached by telephone, Reed said the lawsuit was “total fiction” and vowed to fight Provino’s claims.

“She has dollar signs in her eyes and thinks she’s going to win a million dollars,” he said.

Both federal and state laws mandate that employers accommodate nursing mothers, and prohibit discrimination or retaliation against them, the complaint said.

Provino had difficulty suckling her child but was committed to providing him with breast milk, and needed to pump in order to continue lactating, her attorneys said.

“A broad consensus exists among medical and public health experts that breastfeeding is optimal for infants a year (or longer) following birth, and that it has broader developmental, psychological, social, economic and environmental benefits,” the lawsuit said.

The complaint said Reed also fired a second worker after she told him that she likewise wanted to pump breast milk when she returned from maternity leave.

Provino seeks unspecified monetary damages, the posting of notices at the shop informing employees of workplace laws, training for workers on the issue, and the creation of a private area for nursing mothers.

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