Posted: 5:30 pm Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Dirty bathrooms, no privacy and breastfeeding 

By Helena Oliviero

A HuffPost story published today, “Dirty Bathrooms, No Privacy: The Horrifying Struggles Of Breastfeeding Moms Who Need To Pump At Work,” stems from a reporter Dave Jamieson’s Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Labor, asking for all complaints by workers about bosses who don’t allow space or time to pump at work, as the law requires.

105 closed cases were reviewed, spanning from March 2010, when the Obamacare provision went into effect, until late 2013. The files show that moms who work outside the home face a predicament: they are told by health professionals and society at large that breastfeeding is the right thing for themselves and their babies, yet they still aren’t always granted the on-the-job flexibility they need to make it work.

HERE IS TOP OF THE HUFFPOST PIECE:

In February 2012, a fast-food worker returned to her job at a McDonald’s restaurant in Grand Island, Nebraska, after three months of maternity leave. As a nursing mother, she was determined to continue breastfeeding. As a working mother, that meant she would have to pump her breast milk at work, store it and then take it home to her baby.

Her right to do so was protected under federal law, as a provision of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. Under the 2010 law, employers must give eligible employees “reasonable” break times to express milk for a nursing baby, for up to a year after the baby’s birth. They must also provide a clean, private location that isn’t a bathroom. The law considers bathrooms an unsanitary place to handle what is, after all, food for an infant.

The managers supervising the McDonald’s employee ignored those rules repeatedly, a Labor Department investigator later found.

Even though she obtained a doctor’s note stating she needed to express milk for her child — at her manager’s insistence — the woman wasn’t given access to a private room. The employee break room had no door or curtain to keep people from walking in on her, so she was forced into the restaurant’s public bathroom.

The worker filed a complaint with the Labor Department, saying her rights as a nursing mother were being violated. Within days, a manager forbade her from pumping milk anywhere in the restaurant, according to the Labor Department investigator’s findings.

The woman was forced to clock out and walk 15 minutes each way to a public library whenever she needed to pump milk. This was worse than inconvenient — it was financially damaging. The investigator determined that the worker had lost $81.24 due to those trips to the library.

Her manager dropped her hours from 20 to 7.25 for at least one week, a schedule change the investigator deemed an “apparent retaliatory action” in response to the worker’s complaints.

As a result of the investigation, McDonald’s agreed to pay back wages to the worker and restore her hours. The company also agreed to set up a portable tent in the break room to provide her with a space for pumping milk out of co-workers’ view. The investigator determined that the violations were not intentional, but were instead “due to naivety of the front line manager.”

The McDonald’s file was one of 105 cases reviewed by The Huffington Post as part of a Freedom of Information Act request for investigations into nursing-mother complaints. The cases spanned from March 2010, when the Obamacare provision went into effect, until late 2013, and only closed investigations were released. The names of the women who filed the complaints were redacted, but the names of the companies and their officers were not.

The nursing-mothers provision covers only those hourly workers who fall under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the same set of employees who are eligible for minimum wage and overtime protections. Many salaried workers are currently exempt from the law. The complaints filed by workers therefore tilted heavily toward the low-wage end of the economy, particularly the retail sector.

The case files show that moms who work outside the home face a predicament. They are told by health professionals and society at large that breastfeeding is the right thing for themselves and their babies, with the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of the baby’s life. Yet women still aren’t always granted the on-the-job flexibility they need to make it work. But they have to try, because the Family and Medical Leave Act covers only 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

Among the more visible companies whose workers’ complaints were ultimately substantiated were Starbucks, Walmart, Dollar General, Dillard’s, Sunglass Hut, Meijer, Outback, Anthropologie, Lowe’s and the Salvation Army. McDonald’s had two such claims filed against it — one by the worker at the corporate-owned store in Nebraska, another by an employee at a franchise in California. The company didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Awareness of the law is extremely low. Only 25% of respondents correctly said that employers are required under the law to provide workers with a space for pumping breast milk. What is has been your experience? What do you think should be done or needs to be done to address this issue? do you think it’s getting better or worse?

 

24 comments
JackClemens
JackClemens

My employer has a room on every floor dedicated to this.

BubbaTJ
BubbaTJ

" What is has been your experience?"

"do you think it’s getting better or worse?"

Why anyone would pay a penny to support this disgrace of a journalist is beyond me.

jarvis1975
jarvis1975

If it's the law, obviously it should be followed.

RealKat
RealKat

Knowing McDonald's, her breast milk probably isn't even fresh. Ew! Seriously though, I was still breastfeeding when I went back to my job for an ATL-based telecommunications company. My manager (female) didn't ask if I needed accommodation when I returned, but she didn't mind when I took it upon myself to scurry away to one of the "quiet" rooms in the office. An actual, small, quiet place where I could pump. The door didn't lock, but I put the chair I was in up against the door and blocked out the mini window from the inside with paper. Then, I kept the milk in the fridge in a container (clearly labeled, which I'm not sure was smart or not) to take home. Able to feed our son for about 20 months that way.

Hemmorid_Sufferer_2
Hemmorid_Sufferer_2

I'm all for women breastfeeding at my office....As long as I get to watch.

Ralph-43
Ralph-43

Time for women to stand up for the things that they need in order to participate in the work force effectively. I would think every large office, office building, corporation, etc. should have full time child care as a benefit.  Mothers should be able to have lunch with their children if they want and have access to dressing rooms and private facilities as needed.  Speak up.  Lean In. 

mom2alex@max
mom2alex@max

Yeah I can already tell that this discussion is going to be full of thought provoking and respectful comments (so not)

AprilMae
AprilMae

I'm curious - did they even have a private room onsite? Many small shops and offices don't. If you work  a florist who has a front counter, an open workroom with a computer and file  in the corner, what then? Is the owner supposed to build accommodations for one employee with a short-term need?


Wascatlady
Wascatlady

What about workers who are not hourly?  What is required to accomodate them?

Ralph-43
Ralph-43

@Hemmorid_Sufferer_2  Pretty hard up for action?  Those hemorrhoids will slow one down, but its your obnoxious and disgusting attitude that is really killing your game.  Aren't you that guy that keeps sending out pictures of his penis?

jarvis1975
jarvis1975

@Ralph-43 My office had an on sight day care.  It was so seldom used that we stopped having it.  

We supplemented the cost for the employees too.

WasDenise
WasDenise

@AprilMae  This is a good question. Maybe in a situation like that, the mother could ask for privacy to be alone in the room for a time.  I know that is not always possible though.  Worst case scenario is going out to the car.  One of my girlfriends had to pump in between job interviews once. She moved her SUV to a far corner of the parking deck (lucky to find a spot), got in the 3rd row in the back, and pumped.  That definitely shouldn't have to be the multiple-times-a-day solution.

BubbaTJ
BubbaTJ

@jarvis1975 @BubbaTJ 


Interesting, TWG continues to "write" like a blithering idiot - and you feel the need to call out the one calling out the blithering idiot (who continues to be an insult to the profession).

BubbaTJ
BubbaTJ

@Hemmorid_Sufferer_2 @BubbaTJ @jarvis1975 


Agreed.  If it was a one-time thing.

However, this blog in particular is appalling:

  - typically 5-10 sentences of poorly written sentences typically put above the copy/paste crap.

   - frequently it is obvious that TWG doesn't care enough to read the 10 words in a sentence that she has typed, use a spell checker, etc.

    - TWG's husband is an executive in the industry

    - TWG puts forth as a journalist and as a past university instructor in journalism

    - TWG doesn't live in ATL

    - The ACJ is the "paper of record" for our city and state

Is this seriously the best effort that can be put forth?  Is this even a decent effort? 


To me it is an embarrassment.

Hemmorid_Sufferer_2
Hemmorid_Sufferer_2

@BubbaTJ 

As someone pointed out, you are attacking the wrong person here.

There is a distinct differnce between critique and attack. You chose the latter, and the wrong person.

If you can't make your point without the insults or attacks, then you are not really making a point.

You should be embarrassed.

BubbaTJ
BubbaTJ

@Hemmorid_Sufferer_2 @BubbaTJ  If someone is the moderator, owner of a blog, with their name and picture on it:
- they should take a modicum of pride and ownership in it

TWG has written garbage like this plenty of times in the past
Teaming with someone else who apparently has just as little concern for quality - is sad
If a journalism student would have submitted something like this - you would hope that the professor would reprimand the student.
As a former university journalism professor - TWG doesn't seem to care the slighest about the quality of her blog - sad
Taking payment for services like this - is sad

The paper of record allowing this poor quality to go out - is sad

To me, this blog is an embarassment to women, journalists, the paper, the city, the state, Arizona State, and UGA

RealKat
RealKat

@BubbaTJ @Hemmorid_Sufferer_2 Considering the percentage of the article that came from the blogger and the amount that came from Huffington Post, I think you should criticize Huff Post.

BubbaTJ
BubbaTJ

@RealKat @BubbaTJ @Hemmorid_Sufferer_2 

Please try to use a modicum of critical thinking:

- you are correct - this blog tends to be 95% cut/paste

and 5% poorly written crap at the bottom

- the poorly written crap: "What is has been your experience?"  "do you think it’s getting better or worse?" - isn't from Huff Post