Evergreen teacher gets settlement in highly-publicized breast pumping case
Heather Burgbacher, center, with attorneys Mari Newman, left, and Rebecca Wallace. (ACLU)
EVERGREEN, Colo. — Though a Jefferson County charter school continues to insists that its decision not to renew the contract of a fifth-year teacher was not due to a sensitive issue about breast milk pumping, a settlement was reached between the two parties out of court on Sept. 14.
As part of the agreement, the teacher received financial compensation and the school agreed to revise its policies regarding breast milk pumping.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado released a statement on behalf of Heather Burgbacher Tuesday, claiming the settlement the organization helped former Rocky Mountain Academy of Evergreen (RMAE) teacher Heather Burgbacher achieve is “the first public settlement of a legal challenge brought under the Colorado Nursing Mothers Act.”
That 2008 law states that employers have to make reasonable accommodations for working mothers who want to pump breast milk at the workplace.
Hours after the ACLU issued its release, RMAE issued one of its own, taking issue with the civil rights group’s claims.
“It’s unfortunate that the ACLU chose to target the Rocky Mountain Academy of Evergreen to boast the ‘first public settlement of a lawsuit regarding the Nursing Mothers Act,’” Dan Cohen, Executive director of RMAE, is quoted as saying. “Especially in light of the fact that “Burgbacher’s) accusations were false.”
Burgbacher, a former technology teacher for eighth graders, claimed that her contract was not renewed by RMAE in February of 2011 because of her attempts to leave the classroom to pump milk from her breast.
Burgbacher said she had originally found another teacher to cover for her for 20 minutes a day, three days a week while she pumped. When that teacher decided she no longer wanted to continue that practice, Burgbacher said she was approached by a human resources employee at the school, who recommended Burgbacher supplement her child’s breast milk with formula.
“It’s not an employer’s place to dictate how I nourish my child,” Burgbacher said publicly following the recommendation.
It was also out of line, in the ACLU’s estimation, for RMAE to cite Burgbacher’s efforts to pump at work as one of the reasons that her contract was not renewed. Officials for the school have claimed this report is not accurate, saying Burgbacher’s position was restructured into a technology adviser for staff members — thus eliminating the technology teacher position.
In its release issued Tuesday, the RMAE said the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s investigation in June 2012 stated that Burgbacher had “no probable cause” to pursue legal action against the school.
“Continuing to battle this lawsuit would have taken more valuable time and resources away from the students and classrooms at the Rocky Mountain Academy of Evergreen and this was not something we were willing to do,” Kelli Anderson, Board Treasurer at RMAE, was quoted as saying in the release. “We have agreed to a settlement in order to put this situation behind us
Regardless of past indifference, Burgbacher appeared satisfied with the settlement.
“To its credit, RMAE has agreed to make significant policy changes that I feel confident will ensure that the next nursing mom working at RMAE will have the workplace support she needs to nurse her baby for as long as she wants,” Burgbacher said. “I am deeply satisfied with this settlement.”
The exact changes to RMAE policy were not specified in the press release. The exact amount of monetary compensation received by Burgbacher was also not made public.