Forced to Pump in Unsanitary Conditions and Endure Harassment from Colleagues
November 6, 2013
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PITTSBURGH – A Port Allegany glass factory worker asserts in a civil complaint and an EEOC charge filed today that she was discriminated against and harassed because she needed to pump breast milk at work following the birth of her child.
Bobbi Bockoras is a factory worker at the Saint Gobain Verallia glass factory. When she returned to work after the birth of her child and requested a place to pump breast milk, she was only provided with rooms that were either unsanitary or insufficiently private, and was subjected to harassment by her coworkers. After she complained, she was moved from the day shift to a rotating schedule that frequently requires her to work an overnight shift, which has disrupted her ability to breastfeed or produce enough milk for her baby.
Bockoras is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Women’s Law Project, and the New York office of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, which is working pro bono.
"I never thought that I would be punished on the job for doing what I feel is best for my baby," said Bockoras. "Rather than help me follow my doctor's recommendations, I believe my employer ignored its legal obligations, allowed me to be bullied and harassed, and then retaliated against me for standing up for my rights. No employee should have to go through that."
Bockoras was first told that she could only pump breast milk in the bathroom, which is unsanitary. She was later told she could pump in the first aid room, but she was frequently interrupted by male co-workers pounding on the door and yelling in order to harass her.
She was then sent to an old locker room that was furnished with nothing but a single chair on a filthy floor with dead bugs. On one occasion, the chair was removed and she had to sit on the dirty floor. On other occasions, co-workers allegedly brought her a bucket, jokingly comparing her to a cow being milked and covered the door handle of the room where she was pumping in grease and metal shards – a common prank at the factory.
A new provision of the Affordable Care Act requires employers of hourly employees to provide unpaid breaks and a clean and private location, other than a restroom, in which to pump breast milk. It also prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who complain about lack of compliance.
"New mothers reentering the workforce face so many obstacles to continuing breastfeeding, despite the strong medical consensus in its favor," said Galen Sherwin, staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. "A woman should not have to choose between keeping her job and nursing her child, and this new law is designed to ensure that no one faces that kind of choice."
After Bockoras complained about these conditions and the harassment she had faced, she alleges that was moved from the day shift to a rotating shift that required her to work a different schedule every few days, including an overnight shift. Even after she submitted a doctor’s note stating she should only work days, she was not re-assigned. The disruption in her schedule has affected her ability to nurse; she experienced a 50 percent decrease in her milk supply, her baby has not been feeding properly and she has had to give the baby formula against her beliefs about what is best for her child.
"Nursing mothers who are returning to the workplace deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, not harassed because they are trying to do what’s right for their baby," said Susan Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney at the Women’s Law Project’s western Pennsylvania office in downtown Pittsburgh.
The complaint and EEOC charge were filed after her employer failed to honor her request to be put back on the day shift and her supervisor told her that he did not consider her co-workers’ treatment to be harassment.
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