Jury rules in favor of former officer in breastfeeding lawsuit against Tuscaloosa PD

Former Tuscaloosa police officer Stephanie Hicks is in the middle, walking with her attorneys on Tuesday. Source: WBRC video
Former Tuscaloosa police officer Stephanie Hicks is in the middle, walking with her attorneys on Tuesday. Source: WBRC video

TUSCALOOSA COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - A jury has ruled in favor of a former officer in a federal breastfeeding lawsuit case against the Tuscaloosa Police Department.

According to her attorney, Stephanie Hicks won hundreds of thousands of dollars. She called it a win for breastfeeding mothers.

"I hope that it is a start of people to recognize what a mother really wants for her child," Hicks said.

Hicks was a Tuscaloosa Police officer for seven years until resigning in 2013.

Both sides rested their case Wednesday afternoon, but closing arguments were delayed until around 1 p.m. Thursday.

During closing arguments, her attorney told jurors, "Stephanie Hicks doesn't have to apologize. She was a good cop who wanted to be a good mother."

Hicks sued the Tuscaloosa Police Department over claims that after she returned from maternity leave, the department wasn't willing to accommodate her needs to breast feed her child.

Attorneys for the city argued Hicks didn't make serious effort to transition from the department's narcotics unit to the patrol unit.

Hicks was moved from the Narcotics Unit to patrol eight days after returning from maternity leave.

She was required to wear a bullet proof vest in patrol. But she had concerns how that would affect her production of breast milk.

Her attorneys also argued there was not an adequate place for her to pump breast milk for her baby at the department.

During the trial, police chief Steve Anderson testified there is now one place at the police department and two places at City Hall where that can be done.

Hicks says the jury's decision speaks volumes not only for her but working mothers everywhere.

"I hope that because of my stand that other mothers will feel the need they can fight for their right to work and breast feed their child. It's the best thing a mother can do for their child. So for employers to support this, it makes a double win. A working mother is essentially what we all want to be," Hicks said.

Hicks' attorneys feel this win could set a precedent.

"We hope that this brings  this issue of breastfeeding mothers in the workplace to forefront and employers will consider what they are doing with their breastfeeding employees in the future," Patricia Hill, Hicks' attorney said.

"Most importantly this jury sent out a message that said it is not OK to treat breastfeeding mothers like they are second class citizens because they are not," Julie Love, Hicks' other attorney, said.

The Tuscaloosa Police Department did not comment on the outcome and they could appeal the case.

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