Target: Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company CEO Stephen Rasmussen
Goal: Support a former employee who filed a gender and pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against Nationwide Insurance
A federal appeals court recently ruled that Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company did not discriminate against an employee who claims she was denied a room to pump breast milk and pressured to resign on her first day back from maternity leave. Angela Ames, a former loss-mitigation specialist at Nationwide’s Des Moines, Iowa office sued, alleging violations of state and federal civil rights law. As it stands, she will not get a trial on her claims of gender and pregnancy discrimination. Demand that Nationwide be held accountable for its unconscionable actions.
Despite the court ruling that Ames did not meet the legal burden of showing she was treated so badly that any reasonable person would have resigned, it is clear that Nationwide’s management acted inappropriately and fostered a hostile work environment.
Iowa law requires employers to provide break times for an employee to express breast milk for up to one year after pregnancy. The employer must also provide a location, other than a restroom, for the employee to express her milk. These laws are in place to accommodate mothers working outside the home, because a woman who cannot express milk or who must do so in a restroom faces reduction of supply and contamination.
Ames asserts that on the morning she returned from a two-month maternity leave in 2010, she was denied access to Nationwide’s lactation rooms. Company management cited a policy that required mothers to wait three days for security clearance processing, but she was not advised about the requirement in advance. A company nurse offered her a wellness room that was occupied at the time, but warned her that the milk would be exposed to germs. According to Ames, she was in physical pain as she waited for the room to be vacated. At that point her supervisor told her that she would be expected to work overtime to catch up on her work or face disciplinary action. Ames then went to her department head to see if she could help her find a place to lactate and was told that it was not management’s responsibility. The manager then handed Ames a piece of paper and pen and told her to write her resignation, allegedly saying, “I think it’s best that you go home to be with your babies.” This transpired after several questionable incidents took place during her pregnancy, including a suggestion from a supervisor to shorten her maternity leave because of the office’s workload and a warning that taking additional unpaid leave after medical complications with her pregnancy would jeopardize her future prospects with the company.
The case was dismissed in 2012 by a federal court, which prompted the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to file a brief urging it be reinstated. The EEOC argued that jurors would find that an employee would quit after such treatment because Ames had gone through a difficult pregnancy in which her child was born prematurely and she was in pain because she needed to express milk. An appeals panel made up of three Republican-appointed men disagreed, finding that Nationwide tried to accommodate her. Ames’ attorneys plan to ask for a rehearing.
Nationwide has refused to comment about the recent court ruling. Company management violated her civil rights as both an employee and a breastfeeding mother. Condemn them for their blatant discrimination and let them know that you deplore their treatment of the Ames family.
Dear Mr. Rasmussen,
Having recently learned of Angela Ames’ discrimination lawsuit, I find Nationwide’s treatment of her to be deplorable. Company management acted inappropriately and created a hostile work environment for her, and violated her civil rights that are protected under state and federal law. I am also dismayed to learn that Ames’ supervisors made questionable remarks to her after she had pregnancy complications, which indicate that they value work production over the welfare of their employees.
The Affordable Care Act and the Iowa Family Friendly Workplace Act both protect breastfeeding employees from discrimination based on gender or pregnancy. By denying a lactation room to an employee in physical pain and then pressuring her to resign, Nationwide’s management has violated her civil rights.
I condemn your company’s actions in this matter and urge you to reconsider your treatment of Angela Ames. A favorable appeals court ruling for Nationwide does not undo the harm your company has caused the Ames family.
[Your Name Here]
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