11th Cir. Says E-Mail Inadequate to Trigger FLSA’s Protection in Breast Milk Express Case

A female employee cannot sue her employer for retaliation under the Fair Labor Standards Act provision entitling her to time and a private room for expressing breast milk, the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled yesterday.

The basis for the retaliation claim was an e-mail the employee sent her supervisor containing her request. The court ruled, however, that “some degree of formality is required in order that the employer has fair notice that an employee is lodging a grievance.”

The court said that neither the context nor the content of the supervisor’s e-mail to her supervisor put the latter on notice of the lodging of a complaint. The circumstances surrounding the email would not have informed a reasonable employer that the employee  was filing a complaint, it said. Before sending the email, the employee had never asked for, or been denied, a time or place to express breast milk. She was given breaks at her leisure without question or criticism.  She decided to express breast milk in her office without notifying any supervisors. “She did not complain or ask for a different location.”

Here’s the court’s full ruling.




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