Ms Ramos, a nurse, claimed sex discrimination against her employer for concluding that her working environment was risk-free, even though she was breastfeeding. She was particularly concerned about the risks associated with working under a complex shift system, her potential exposure to ionising radiation, healthcare associated infections, and stress. Ms Ramos argued that the risk assessment didn’t comply with the relevant Pregnant Workers Directive relating to breastfeeding at work – which meant it also breached equal treatment legislation.
The European Court agreed with Ms Ramos (in Ramos v Servicio Galego de Saude) and held that her employer’s actions, didn’t comply with legislation. This could amount to direct sex discrimination. She was essentially treated less favourably because she was breastfeeding.
Employers should ensure that any workplace risk assessments they carry out are compliant with the Directive. This means that employers must avoid a generic approach to assessments, and instead focus on the individual circumstances of the breastfeeding employee in question.
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