Listen, women have come a long way in getting (rightful) equality. The suffrage movement was incredible, and women are continually showing the world that it really shouldn't matter what gender you are — you're still human. But, unfortunately, not everything is perfect. Feminism, as a whole, is still largely looked down upon by many, many people, and the wage gap remains way too large. Fortunately, there are women out there brave enough to take a stand against institutionalized misogyny, like this police officer who would have had to quit breastfeeding just to keep her job, until the law got involved.
Stephanie Hicks, who previously worked as a narcotics investigator for the Tuscaloosa, Alabama police department, gave birth to her baby and then took her allowed 12-week maternity leave. However, when she returned to work, her supervisors reportedly demoted her to working patrol, allegedly citing a case of the "baby blues," according to the American Civil Liberties Union. In her new position, Hicks was forced to wear a bulletproof vest, which was both unsafe and hazardous for her as a breastfeeding new mom, according to her doctor. After Hicks' doctor informed her that "the heavy and restrictive vest could interfere with her ability to continue breastfeeding and subject her to a risk of painful infection," as the ACLU reports, she requested a safer desk job where she wouldn't have to wear a vest. Then, she was reportedly denied another position. So, Hicks was forced to resign, and subsequently filed a lawsuit with a federal appeals court. Now, the court has ruled in Hicks' favor, marking an important victory for working moms everywhere.
Romper has reached out to the Tuscaloosa Police Department for a comment and is awaiting a response.
After her department allegedly refused to give her a desk job, Hicks had to make a decision. And while it couldn't have been easy to choose to leave her job, knowing she had a baby at home, Hicks said she believed that what was happening wasn't right. On top of possible discrimination, Hicks also alleged that she heard her coworkers and supervisors refer to her as a "stupid c*nt," and that they wanted to “find anyway” to “get rid of that b*tch," according to the ACLU. It's unclear whether the department denied or disputed these allegations.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Hicks, and found that the Tuscaloosa police department did, in fact, violate the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. According to The Wichita Eagle, the panel of judges wrote:
This holding is consistent with the purpose of PDA and will help guarantee women the right to be free from discrimination in the workplace based on gender-specific physiological occurrences.
And truly, the PDA was passed years ago in order to ensure equality for women. Unfortunately, though, that isn't always the standard that employers live by, so cases like Hicks' are crucial in reminding everyone that women's rights are human rights. And being a mom doesn't mean you can't do your old job anymore. In fact, it might actually mean you do it better.