|The best place I pumped.|
According to a study published in the journal Women’s Health Issues, 60% of pumping women don’t have basic workplace accommodations or adequate break times.
That’s no news. I personally have pumped in many weird places. I returned to work three month after giving birth as a staff writer at a Chinese-language newspaper based in Los Angeles. The company didn't have a nursing room, even though California law requires appropriate reasonable space for pumping.
I pumped in the restroom. When there is a line in the restroom, I pumped in my car. When the weather is too warm or the pump battery is too low, I sat on the floor under my office desk to pump, covering by a jacket. Some male colleagues claimed that I distracted them by sitting under my desk. Later a female colleague helped me to hide in the company storage to pump. It’s dirty in the storage and there were dead cockroaches on the floor, but I am forever grateful for her help.
My job requested frequent travel. Never a time during my entire life that I loved business trips that much. For that’s the only time I got to pump at decent places like an airport nursing station or a hotel room. Collecting and transporting breast milk while traveling is challenging, but not as challenging as sharing pumping room with roaches.
I eventually quit my job and sued the newspaper for sex discrimination. In spite of my effort of hiding myself when pumping, I was harassed. When I washed my pump parts in the kitchen, some of my colleagues would say, “don’t wash your dirty panties in the office.” I reported this to Human Resources, but they never dealt with it. I discussed the possibility of having a space to pump with my supervisor, but was told “nobody ever pumped in the office. We are Chinese company and we don’t follow American rules.”
The suit was settled and one thing I didn’t agree was confidentiality. They wanted to pay me for not talking about this incident again which I refused. Other than that I’m happy about the agreement, it requires the company to change its policies regarding lactation accommodations and to share these policies with staff in multiple languages. Moreover, all supervisors will be trained on the policy and how to respond to requests for lactation accommodation.
I hope I would be the last mother who had to quit her job and go through a law suit simply for a reasonable place to pump. We can do better. Please join me and sign the petition that support all breastfeeding and working moms.
And MomsRising just launched #IPumpedHere campaign that demand to bring breastfeeding women into the pumping rooms they deserve. This campaign kicked in right on time because with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) being repealed, the situation can be worse for millions of working and breastfeeding moms. Please visit IPumpedHere and see what you can do to help your employer help you, and help other women pumping in a bathroom stall, inside a car, or under her office desk.
This is an original for MomsRising.org by To-wen Tseng.