A federal judge has sided with Falmouth schools in a lawsuit by a former teacher who said she was discriminated against and fired for taking breaks to pump breast milk.

Shana Swenson filed her complaint last year in U.S. District Court in Portland. District Judge George Singal granted a motion for summary judgment in Falmouth’s favor this week.

Swenson worked at Falmouth Elementary School for three years as a Response to Intervention teacher, helping students in third through fifth grade who struggled with reading and math. She went on maternity leave in January 2017 and returned to work that August.

The complaint said Swenson began to experience hostility from her co-workers about her choice to breastfeed and her need to take three breaks a day to pump milk. She said she endured months of discrimination before Principal Gloria Noyes decided not to renew her contract in May 2018.

The schools said the decision not to renew Swenson’s contract was related to her performance, not her status as a nursing mother. The court agreed.

“There is ample evidence that Defendant and Noyes have a practice of supporting pregnant and nursing employees and that they provided such support to Plaintiff. Noyes proactively asked Plaintiff about her nursing and pumping needs before her return from maternity leave, supported Plaintiff’s right to take breaks on her own schedule, and firmly and promptly responded when made aware that ed techs were saying things that Plaintiff found harassing,” Singal wrote in his order.

His decision ends the case unless Swenson decides to file an appeal. Her attorneys did not return an email Friday with questions about the case and her next steps.

Melissa Hewey, an attorney from Drummond Woodsum who represents Falmouth schools, called the decision “a complete vindication.”

“What is important about this decision is that it supports what we’ve been saying,” Hewey said. “There’s no doubt on this record that Falmouth is very supporting to nursing mothers and people who take maternity leave.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.