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Oct 13, 2015 4:17 PM

NH1 News Investigates Breast-Feeding Battle: Judge sides with NH over woman's termination


CONCORD – A four-year legal battle between a Conway woman and the state has come to an end. Or has it?

Kate Frederick was fired by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services - and she claims it is because she tried to breast-feed her child.

“They very clearly fired me for having a child,” says Frederick.

However, a judge has approved the DHHS's request to dismiss her lawsuit.

Kate Frederick sued the state claiming DHHS wouldn't let her breast-feed her baby in a safe and secure place.

It’s retaliation, she says, claiming they told her to stay home until she didn’t have any medical needs while the state says, Frederick essentially never came back to work.

So now even with the judge’s recent ruling, Frederick says this is far from over.

“It felt awful,” says Frederick. “Beyond awful.”

That was Frederick's reaction after waiting 10 months to hear the judge’s ruling.

Weeks after the judge's ruling on September 30, Frederick is still in shock.

“Could you imagine if your boss said, here's how you have to feed your children,” Frederick asks. “If you feed them this way, then you're fired.”

Frederick had worked for nearly a year as a child support officer for DHHS and got the pink slip after alleging pregnancy and breast-feeding discrimination.

“I think what Health and Human Services' message here is if you want to keep your job, then have an abortion and don't have a kid,” Frederick says.

That’s a bold accusation as her lawyer says there's no question the state acted illegally.

When asked if his client wanted special privileges, King says, “She didn't want anything special. She just wanted to do her job and meet the needs of her newborn.”

We later went to the family's home in Conway.

As Frederick breastfed her son, Devon, she told us how she asked her boss if she could breast-feed in private in the lactation room or if she could add 15 minutes of unpaid break time so she could drive to daycare to breastfeed her son.

Even with a doctor’s note, Frederick says the boss said no.

“My case seems to be about breastfeeding but it's really about retaliation,” Frederick claims. “They just used the breastfeeding accommodations as a reason to get rid of me.”

In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Steven J. McAuliffe says Frederick’s request ".....was not unreasonable. And it would seem that DHHS could have avoided this entire controversy..."

Judge McAuliffe went on to say DHHS’s policy, although deplorable, didn’t violate any law.

Still, he invited Frederick to file an amended complaint for him to consider.

“I hold them accountable,” Frederick says. “I hold them responsible, and I do want justice.”

While back at her lawyer's office, Frederick and her attorney work on their amended complaint.

“Part of the reason why I'm doing this is for Devon, and for my husband, Brad….. and absolutely for other mothers.”

We also went to the home of Frederick’s former boss, Karen Hebert, where he husband told us they wouldn’t comment on the case but to get in touch with DHHS.

We have yet to hear back from DHHS.

Frederick and her lawyer have until October 30th to submit the amended complaint.


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