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Nursing Mom Quits Job & Sues Over Access to Pump Room

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An Iowa mother of two, Angela Ames, recently quit her job because she was denied a place to pump breast milk for her newborn preemie son, and has filed a discrimination complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, according to a recent story in the Des Moines Register.

According to her complaint, Ames had returned early from her maternity leave after being informed that her short-term disability leave would expire and that her job would not be held until the date she had originally agreed to with her supervisor and HR. Ames, who had given birth five weeks early to her second son, returned to her position as a loss mitigation specialist at Nationwide Advantage Mortgage in Des Moines just two months after his birth.

On her first day back, Ames asked for somewhere to pump but was told that before she could access a pump room she needed to fill out paperwork that would take three days to be processed. She reportedly searched for an alternate place to express her milk, but private stalls in the bathroom weren’t equipped with an outlet and the company “sick room” had a sick person in it (also, the lock was broken and a nurse also reportedly told Ames that the safety of her milk couldn’t be guaranteed in that room). With her breasts engorged and leaking, and concerned about keeping up her supply, Ames resigned. According to the article, Ames’ husband was out of work for several months, and the family has struggled financially, so it was hardly a good time to quit a job.

Under federal law, employers must provide breastfeeding employees with reasonable break time and a private place other than a bathroom to express their milk for a year following the birth of a child. (However, employers are not required to compensate an employee for the break time, and companies with fewer than 50 employees are not subject to these requirements.) State laws may be more generous; for information about breastfeeding laws by state, check out this roundup at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

A Nationwide spokeswoman told the Register, "Nationwide supports working parents and nursing mothers through a variety of policies and programs. In fact, Nationwide offers a lactation program for associates who are also nursing mothers, which includes providing private and secure rooms exclusively devoted to lactation purposes, comfortable chairs, electrical breast pump if necessary, secure storage for expressed milk, and on-site occupational nurse specialists."

Moms, what would you have done in Ames’ place? How can we work to repair the disconnect between companies’ breastfeeding-friendly policies (when they exist) and failure to actually implement them?

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