No Place for Breastfeeding? That Will be $3.8 Million, Please

Federal law requires that you provide breastfeeding moms a room with a locking door–that is not a bathroom–to pump breast milk up until the baby’s first birthday. This is pretty easy in a big office building with lots of space, but not so easy in a firehouse. The law, however, doesn’t make an exception for difficulty, as the City if Tuscon found out–to the tune of $3.8 million. 

Carrie Clark, a Fire Paramedic sued when the fire department wouldn’t allow her to transfer to a place where she could have “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.” 

Tuscon said it provided her places–such as the private bedroom of a fire captain. However, Clark pointed out that she would have to wake the sleeping captain if she wished to pump. Hardly a reasonable thing to expect someone to have to wake her boss and kick him out of his bedroom so she could pump breast milk. 

To keep reading, click here: No Place for Breastfeeding? That Will be $3.8 Million, Please

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6 thoughts on “No Place for Breastfeeding? That Will be $3.8 Million, Please

  1. I am going to respond using the fast food job conditions. The responsibility for the provision of a special facility room falls on the owner of the building. I worked in a supermarket and to accommodate this for nursing mothers, we had a lounge area off the women’s bathroom separate from the bathroom, with a small refrigerator in the employee lounge for employees to store food in. As this was pre-dated, the allowance of transgenders into the bathroom of choice, this worked with no problem. But now, the rules are even more selective. While I thoroughly understand the rules stated in the laws, adding extra rooms are costly, plus there’s the problem of getting around the variance building laws in a pre-built building. Like in the fast food site setup, which has an arranged setup for different functions of the job (blueprint), using a multiple use space with a locked door, may be the only solution.
    As far as the fire/police departments, it took them a long time to just accommodate women working on sites.

  2. In California, all businesses must make reasonable efforts to find a private non-bathroom location. Reasonable is hard to define. My firm has no issue: we have a locking conference room. But not all businesses have such a luxury. The idea that the firefighter should be transferred (for what, 6 months to 2 years?) or what, build a room (very expensive) could be considered unreasonable — unless the transfer was to an equivalent job where they needed to fill a slot. We need the rest of the story.

    1. If the company can provide a private office for management, they can provide a private room for pumping. My observation is that pumping is done on a schedule, so it shouldn’t be that difficult for business to figure something out, even when space is tight. Also, saying it hasn’t been accommodated in the past, or that the accommodations only benefit a minority of workers – that’s discrimination (maybe more accommodations would change that minority to a majority). The same arguments can be made for not having handicapped stalls, elevators or even bathrooms for women.

  3. I was working 40 hours per week on a contract, and the company I was working AT – not FOR – was hesitant for me to have access to their room because I wasn’t their employee. They finally agreed (because it’s the right thing to do), but the fact that it was even a question said a lot about the issues at this place. My employer couldn’t provide something in their building. I wonder what legally has to be provided onsite for contractors.

  4. Just about every organization has at least one private office — not a bedroom — with a lock on the door, for management. Arrangements could be made to use that space — even if it meant temporarily inconveniencing a manager — without the necessity of having to build something new.

  5. If accommodating employees need to breastfeed is to cost prohibitive, then perhaps a cheaper alternative (to a lawsuit) is for companies to offer 12 months parental leave. Most moms pump for 1 year, and if not, once the infant starts solid food, the need for pumping is reduced. See, problem solved and so much cheaper than losing a lawsuit.

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