The allegations are awful...and sadly all too common.
How would you feel if your employer was making it next to impossible for you to breastfeed? You'd be livid, right?
Michigan mom Rachel Keesling is saying that's exactly what happened to her. In a lawsuit filed on June 30, Keesling, who worked at a Meijer store in Michigan, alleged that the store fostered a "sexually hostile" atmosphere.
You see, Keesling was hired in 2013, just three months after giving birth. She was nursing at the time—and as any breastfeeding mom will tell you, having the time and a place to pump during the work day is essential. That's why the store's reported lack of lactation room was a major issue for Keesling, who says she was forced to use the bathroom, a conference room and a computer service room to pump.
Here's where her story takes a turn for the worse: The conference room she used allegedly had a surveillance camera in it, something she didn't know until later. According to reports from The Consumerist, a supervisor told her that "there's probably a video of you on the internet."
Keesling was understandably "distraught and humiliated"—but when she tried discussing it with the store's director, he allegedly dismissed her concerns.
If Keesling is describing the situation accurately, it's not just sexist and sinister, it's also illegal: The United States Department of Labor mandates that employers "provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk. Employers 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."
After her initial ordeal, The Consumerist reports that Keesling put in a request to transfer stores, was denied, and later fired. She's seeking damages for emotional distress, invasion of privacy, sex discrimination and sexually hostile work environment.
Frank Gugliemi, a spokesman for Meijer, said the company's stores all have locations where women can comfortably nurse in private. "We value all of our team members, including our nursing mothers," Guglielmi said in an emailed statement, according to M Live. "Our policy is to provide nursing mothers at all of our stores or facilities with the time, appropriate space (not a rest room) and amenities to express and store milk."
Gugliemi declined to comment on this particular case.
Sadly, it seems like so many working mothers have experiences that are similar to this one—and while legal protocols are in place for breastfeeding moms, societal attitudes still have a long way to go. Have you ever felt discriminated against while trying to breastfeed on the job? Comment to let us know.