A Delaware mom and former Kentucky Fried Chicken employee just got some tasty news: not related to their fried food products, but a $1.5 million verdict in her favor due to managers at a Wilmington, Delaware-area location franchise obstructing her from pumping breast milk for her newborn son.
Autumn Lampkins, a mother from Wyoming, Delaware filed a lawsuit against KFC claiming that the brand discriminated against her for being a mother.
A jury agreed, handing down a verdict of $25,000 in compensatory damages and $1.5 million in punitive damages on Feb. 8, the Delaware News Journal reported.
Yum! Brands, which owns KFC, along with Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the verdict. The defendant in this lawsuit, franchise owner Mitra QSR LLC of Texas, could not be reached for comment.
Lampkins was hired to work at KFC as an assistant manager in 2014, just a few months after giving birth to her son.
When she started training shifts at a KFC in Camden, Delaware, she was told taking time to pump breast milk for her newborn would be fine. But after she got on the clock, managers only let her take a break once per 10-hour training shift. Doctors recommend moms be allowed to pump every two to four hours as needed.
At first, she pumped in a single-stall bathroom and subsequently got permission to pump in a manager’s office; however, it had windows and under the gaze of a company surveillance camera, which she was told could not be turned off.
“Lampkins was forced to pump in an office with a window and operating camera,” U.S. District Court Judge Blank Blank wrote in one decision relating to the case. “The feed from the camera was visible to some of Mitra’s employees in Texas. In Camden, one male employee was caught observing Lampkins twice while she pumped; another male employee entered the office on multiple occasions as Lampkins pumped; and Lampkins’ supervisor would use the office to do paperwork while Lampkins pumped. At the Dover restaurant, coworkers entered the office on numerous occasions when Lampkins was pumping.”
After training ended, Lampkins said she was demoted from assistant manager to shift supervisor at a KFC in Dover, Delaware. There she reportedly experienced insubordination from works under her supervision who complained about the breaks she took to pump milk, which she said her managers did not address.
Her lawsuit claimed the associated stress caused physical pain, eventually led to her milk supply “drying up” and she wound up shifting her baby to formula earlier than planned as a result.
“Because Lampkins was not permitted to pump as frequently as she needed to, breast milk would leak through her shirt and cause her embarrassment,” Judge Colm Connolly wrote. “Ultimately, her milk supply dried up, and she became unable to breastfeed her son.”
While doctors say formula is a fine alternative for babies, breast milk is recommended by the World Health Organization and is associated with benefits to the child’s immune system.
“It’s a great day for women’s rights,” Lampkins’ lawyer Patrick Gallagher of told the Delaware News Journal. “The jury sent a message that employers cannot treat lactating women differently in the workplace.”
Kentucky Fried Chicken changed its name to KFC after the state of Kentucky trademarked its name in 1990 and filed litigation against numerous entities including KFC; after an undisclosed settlement in 2006, the company regained the right to call themselves Kentucky Fried Chicken but still goes by KFC. The urban legend about the name change being related to the type of chicken they use is false.