Jay-Z’s Streaming Co. Must Face Breastfeeding Accommodation Case

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By Porter Wells

Two entertainment platforms, Tidal and Roc Nation LLC, will have to litigate claims by a former Tidal employee who says she was discriminated against and fired for requesting breastfeeding accommodations.

Tidal Music and Roc Nation are closely associated with Shawn Carter, better known by the hip-hop pseudonym Jay-Z. Tidal styled itself as the first artist-owned music subscription service in the world and says it gives musicians a better financial return on their work. Sprint Corp. has since paid $200 million for a one-third share of the company.

The companies succeeded July 16 in getting most of Lisette Paulson’s discrimination and retaliation claims dismissed by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Paulson’s failure to establish an employment relationship between herself and Roc Nation was a particular sticking point for the court. But her claim that Tidal violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by firing her the day after she requested accommodations to pump breast milk survived.

The court rejected Tidal’s argument that Title VII doesn’t protect the need to express breast milk. It reminded Tidal that lactation is a medical condition related to pregnancy, and pregnancy is indeed covered under Title VII. The court did, however, dismiss Paulson’s discrimination claim brought under the New York State Human Rights Law, as that law only protects breastfeeding a present infant, not pumping breast milk for use later with a baby not in the immediate vicinity.

Tidal hired Paulson as a part-time consultant in February 2015 while she was pregnant. She went to work full time for Tidal after returning from maternity leave, though key components of her employment contract weren’t ironed out, according to the court.

In particular, she says in September 2015, she requested a room where she could pump privately. Her boss allegedly told her to use a bathroom, and asked if Paulson “had to do this” when Paulson declined to use a bathroom. Paulson says she was fired the next day.

Attorneys for the party didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment.

Tidal is represented by Rivkin Radler LLP in Uniondale, N.Y. Roc Nation is represented by Reed Smith LLP in New York. Paulson is represented by Douglas / Hicks Law, APC, in Los Angeles.

The case is Paulson v. Tidal, S.D.N.Y., No. 16-cv-9049, opinion published 7/16/18.

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