As many moms will attest, trying to pump on the job is far more difficult than it should be. Quite often, moms face breastfeeding discrimination, such as being denied pumping break requests and refused privacy. In fact, according to a recent study conducted by the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of Law, these situations result in the nursing employee losing her job in an alarming number of cases. At the same time, even when a nursing mom isn't at risk of losing her job, she'll often face a slew of microaggressions in the workplace.
A woman recently took to the Breastfeeding subreddit to illustrate a blatant example of this. Writing under the handle JumpyGinger on Wednesday, August 21, she titled her post, "Someone at my job complained about my breast milk in the freezer."
"I started a new job recently, and part of the building is a warehouse with lots of blue-collar guys," the original poster (OP) wrote. "Apparently, one of them complained to my supervisor and asked if she could 'speak to me' about my breast milk being in the freezer. She’s awesome and didn’t even bother to bring it up to me, I heard about it from another coworker."
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JumpyGinger went on to explain that "this guy said he was 'tired of seeing it,' and then argued 'what if someone doesn’t know what it is and tries to use it in their coffee or something?'"
Laughing at her colleague's remark, she wrote, "If you’re dumb enough to put a frozen brick that is double-sealed in a bag labeled 'Mother's milk' in your coffee, you’ve got bigger problems to worry about. He’s tired of seeing it in the freezer?! Feel free to provide me with my own private freezer, and I’ll be happy to use it. Or don’t look in the freezer! It’s only two to three bags at a time that I pump during the work day."
Thankfully, the OP doesn't believe the "situation will go any further," but she admitted she's "still so annoyed," concluding, "Of all the things to complain about!"
Redditors were quick to commiserate with the understandably irritated mom. "It is ridiculous when men are uncomfortable being reminded that boobs make milk and aren't just there for their viewing pleasure," OrangesAndGrape wrote.
Notfunliketheysaid observed, "He is tired of seeing it yet he probably pours cow's milk on his cereal in the mornings. Like cows feed their babies, and so do we. Ugh some people need to get over the squeamish part of it. Seriously!" She then shared her own frustrating experience: "Recently, a new coworker of mine asked why my work bag was so huge. I told her it was because it's my pumping bag! She told me at her old job someone used to pump and that even hearing the pump going behind closed doors was disgusting."
Another Redditor pointed out that, according to Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers are required to provide employees with "a small refrigerator or cooler for women to store their milk. Breastmilk is food and may be stored in a company refrigerator in the same way other food is stored."
JumpyGinger said she didn't know how the situation had been handled, as management had never informed her directly. "My coworker just happened to overhear," she wrote further down the thread. But she said she hoped that her co-worker who complained was told that "he's out of line."
As heartening as it is to see that this particular mom has an employer who is on her side, her experience is a reminder that when it comes to the culture and treatment of breastfeeding moms at far too many workplaces, we, unfortunately, have quite a way to go.