A former assistant manager at the Home Depot store in Nampa claims that her store director refused to allow her breaks to pump breast milk and store it for her newborn son, and then retaliated against her for asserting her rights.
Randi Allred, who had worked for Home Depot for four years in Meridian and Nampa, filed suit Monday in U.S. District Court in Boise seeking at least $75,000 in damages and $2,340 in accrued vacation wages she claims the company has refused to pay her.
“It is unfortunate that a company such as Home Depot has not taken the appropriate steps to make sure its female employees who are pregnant and nursing are treated fairly,” Boise attorney Shelly Cozakos, who represents Allred, wrote in a statement to the Idaho Statesman. “This is an important issue for all mothers who work outside the home, and their families.”
Store director Josh Hazlett, the subject of Allred’s complaint, did not return a call.
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“We disagree with the claims in the suit,” Home Depot spokesman Matt Harrigan wrote in a statement to the Statesman from the company’s headquarters in Atlanta. The company, he said, will address the allegations in the “proper forum.”
The case has been assigned to Chief District Judge B. Lynn Winmill. Home Depot has until Dec. 19 to respond to the complaint.
The 25-page complaint claims that Home Depot violated the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which required the company to allow Allred to express her breast milk for one year after the birth of her son, Cozakos wrote. The company’s actions also violated the Idaho Human Rights Act, she said.
Allred claims that Hazlett refused repeated requests so she could collect milk for her son, Cayden, who was born on Oct. 11, 2016.
Cayden is allergic to cow’s milk and soy, the two main components of store-bought baby formula. When Allred, who had worked at the Nampa store for two years, returned to work Jan. 6, she notified Home Depot and her manager that her baby required breast milk as his sole source of nourishment.
A document signed by Allred’s physician and provided to Home Depot said that Allred, who supervised the store’s lumber, hardware, plumbing and professional contractor departments, required breaks of up to 30 minutes every three hours to allow her to pump milk. The law doesn’t require workers to be compensated during those breaks.
Home Depot’s medical health management department instructed Allred to work directly with Hazlett to have the accommodations incorporated into her work schedule. Hazlett ignored the request, the lawsuit claims, and scheduled Allred to work seven straight days of 10-hour shifts.
“Allred had not been scheduled for shifts of this duration with no days off prior to going on her Family and Medical Leave Act leave and was surprised by the rigorous schedule Hazlett placed her on,” Cozakos wrote.
Hazlett was unwilling to discuss any modification to her schedule to allow for any accommodation, Allred said. She said through a text message to Hazlett that she was willing to use her two weeks of accrued vacation time to reduce her shift left and allow her to either pump her breast milk or be available to nurse her baby.
She said Hazlett never responded.
Allred said she suffered pain and discomfort because she was unable to pump milk while she was at work. Eventually, her breast milk began drying up and she was unable to provide her son with the quantity of milk he required.
Allred said she also complained to a human resources official and a Home Depot regional manager, but they did not intercede on her behalf. About the same time, Hazlett spoke to her, but Allred said he expressed no understanding or concern for the seriousness of her condition.
“Hazlett informed Allred that her position at Home Depot would be difficult for her to maintain over time anyway since should her children become sick, Allred’s husband would be unavailable to care for them, making it impossible for her to work her schedule as required,” Cozakos wrote in the complaint.
Allred quit Jan. 30, after telling Hazlett and the other officials that working conditions had become so intolerable that no reasonable person in her position could continue working.
Cozakos said her client tried to get Home Depot to do the right thing. She said they only went to court because the company would not comply with the law.
In May, two flight attendants filed sex discrimination complaints against Frontier Airlines for similar instances. They said the Denver-based carrier prohibited employees from pumping breast milk while on duty. One of the flight attendants, Jill Roby, lives in Boise.
“I want to be able to provide my child with breast milk because it’s very nutritious and it’s recommended by pediatricians and the World Health Organization,” Roby told The Washington Post. “It’s sad to me that Frontier isn’t more supportive of the fact that I want to provide for my daughter at the same time that I keep my career.”
The complaints, filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, came a year after four Frontier pilots filed similar complaints.