6 Years Later, Dispute Over Breastfeeding Accommodations Grinds On

Nov 20, 2018

Kate Frederick, right, with her son Devon. At left is her attorney Benjamin King.
Credit Todd Bookman/NHPR

A former state employee who claims she was wrongfully fired after requesting accommodations to breastfeed appeared in Superior Court on Tuesday, more than six years after her termination.

Kate Frederick was fired from her position with N.H. Department of Health and Human Services in 2012 after she alleges supervisors denied her the ability to leave state offices during her break to breastfeed her then newborn son, who was in daycare less than a mile away.

Since then, the case has been mired in procedural disputes, first in the federal court, and now in Merrimack County Superior Court. One outstanding legal issue is if Frederick, who was covered by a collective bargaining agreement, has the standing to bring a suit in this form seeking damages.

“The question is whether an employee who is subject to the state’s personnel rules and the state’s collective bargaining agreement can bring a wrongful discharge claim,” said Frederick’s attorney, Benjamin King, with the firm Douglas, Leonard & Garvey.

The N.H. Attorney General’s office argues that Frederick has no such ability, and that the statute of limitations has long run out.

“The argument here today was the statutes and the personnel rules and the contract require Ms. Frederick to go through the grievance procedure to pursue her claim for wrongful termination,” said attorney Lindsey Courtney. “She can’t just go to the courts, instead.”

Frederick is seeking unnamed damages for her termination. The judge hearing the matter didn’t immediately issue a ruling on the state’s motion to dismiss the case.