Lawsuit Claims Meijer Failed To Provide Worker A Safe Place To Pump Breast Milk

Image courtesy of Nicholas Eckhart

For a nursing mother, it can be quite a challenge to find somewhere private to pump breast milk when you aren’t actively feeding your baby. But although a federal law requires employers to provide such a safe spot for workers, one former employee of grocery chain Meijer claims in a lawsuit that there was no such place for her to express breast milk while she was at work, which she says ultimately led to her losing her job.

The Michigan woman says her in lawsuit that she was nursing a three-month-old child when she was hired to work as a clerk at a Meijer location in July 2013, Courthouse News reports.

That store failed to dedicate a legally required lactation room, she claims, requiring her to try using a conference room, the store’s bathroom, and a closet-like space used to house the store’s computer server and other technology.

According to the Department of Labor, employers have to give nursing workers enough break time to pump, and “are also required to provide 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.”

The worker says that not only was she not provided a safe space to pump, her pay was docked at times as well, when her efforts to find somewhere to go kept her from being punctual for shifts.

A union steward intervened and Meijer wiped those disciplinary actions from her file, and headquarters sent a memo reminding all store managers about the store’s duty under federal law to provide a space for nursing mothers, the complaint says, but that didn’t end the matter.

The ex-worker says she was barred from the server room she’d been using in May 2014, when a supervisor told her “there were monitored security cameras inside the room.”

The store manager allegedly had learned she’d been using the room, “and had objected to its continued use because … ‘you can see everything’ (as recounted by plaintiff’s supervisor),” according to the complaint.

And she claims another supervisor told her, “There’s probably a video of you on the internet.”

The woman says she was “distraught and humiliated” over the situation and tried to address it with the store director, but that the director was “dismissive” and unapologetic.

The stress of her situation frayed her and her fiancé’s nerves, the complaint says, and he ended up firing a modified flare gun that hit her in the neck, injuring her. She was put on medical leave for nearly two months, after which time she requested a transfer to another store “due to the sexually hostile environment created by the invasion of privacy and jokes about internet videos, because of what had occurred, the scrutiny of her co-workers and managers, and the emotional distress.”

She claims the store director denied her transfer and fired her the next day, “allegedly because she could not come back to the same store where her privacy was violated.”

The lawsuit is seeking damages for emotional distress, invasion of privacy, sex discrimination and sexually hostile work environment.

Nursing Mom Alleges Hellish Ordeal at Meijer [Courthouse News]