I sent the owner another message. ‘Hey, by the way, I have a hands-free device I will need to bring to work because I am choosing to breastfeed my child. It will not prevent me from working. I can do it at my desk.’ My desk was in a private room away from patients. There was only one other employee in that room and they told me they were perfectly fine with me using my breast pump.
‘I only need to use it twice during my shift, once at my desk and once during my lunch break.’ I wasn’t asking for permission. I was just giving him a heads up. Less than ten minutes later, I received a message saying, ‘I have an issue with you pumping at work. What I allow for you, I would have to allow for others.’
In utter disbelief, I instantly began researching my rights as a nursing mom. I had nursed my first child for 18 months and pumped while working. Was this man really telling me I couldn’t pump?! Anyone that has ever nursed knows you have to pump when your baby would normally eat, which is every 2-3 hours. I was devastated by his response. I had no idea what I was going to do.
Feeding formula to my baby was no longer an option at this point. I am in no way against formula, but that was not the choice I had made for myself and my daughter. I believe every mom has the right to choose what is best for her and her baby. I nursed my son for 18 months and I planned to nurse my new daughter until at least her first birthday. Thoughts began racing in my mind. What am I going to do? I need this job! I can’t feed by baby formula anymore! Plus, why would I pay for something I have for free? How could he say this to me? Has he never known a pregnant woman before?
I knew I needed that job, but something was going to have to give. So, I did my research. Although I wasn’t covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, I was still protected. Companies with under 50 employees had to apply for an exemption to the law and prove that a nursing mother pumping creates an ‘undue hardship’ to the company. Pumping was allowed to continue until they filed for exemption.
So, I typed up a letter to my employer and asked for reasonable accommodation if he wouldn’t allow me to pump at my desk on the clock. ‘I am willing to take two twenty-minute unpaid breaks,’ I said. I sent it to him via text message on Monday, March 4. Forty minutes later, he told me, ‘Your job at this company is over!’