The Affordable Care Act, along with many state laws, mandates that all workplaces provide nursing mothers with breaks and a private room — that is not a bathroom — in which to express breastmilk. It doesn’t mention jury duty, however, as one mother in Minnesota unpleasantly discovered this week. As one does when subjected to injustice, she shared her ordeal on Facebook.
“Terrible experience at jury duty today. As a nursing mother I was completely disappointed with the lack of regard and dismissal I felt when trying to pump (express breastmilk) on a schedule today,” Amanda Chandler wrote on Tuesday. She needed to pump four times a day, but was only allowed two breaks, and on her second day at the Hennepin County Government Center, she was shown to a bathroom with a chair next to a urinal.
“This afternoon I was thankful to just finally be able to pump,” she wrote. “Tonight I’m pissed. Seems pretty ironic that the very place which is supposed to uphold and enforce the laws would not follow or adhere to them.”
For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure: Breast-pumping is one of the most uncomfortable experiences women put themselves through (for the best reasons, but still). Even in the most ideal environment, you can feel like a cow in a factory dairy farm as a loud motor and ugly plastic suction cups attempt to take the place of your dear sweet baby’s mouth. In a cramped bathroom next to a urinal, it’s, well, dehumanizing, uncomfortable, and gross. To make matters worse, if a woman doesn’t pump as frequently as she usually pumps or nurses, her breasts can become painfully engorged, she’s at risk of developing an infection, and her body may slow its production of milk.
After Chandler’s post went viral, Hennepin County issued a statement to local news station KARE 11. It was all a miscommunication, apparently: “District Court has a quiet room on the 24th floor near our jury assembly room that was designed with nursing mothers in mind, which features a locking door for privacy, a sink and a chair. Through a miscommunication, which we regret, a jury panelist was not originally advised of the availability of this room. District Court strives to respect the physical and medical needs of all its jurors.”
This is not the first time a juror has gone viral for her pumping room complaints. In 2014, when a Memphis woman shared photos of the dirty bathroom designated at the “Nursing Mothers Restroom” in a courthouse, officials quickly promised to create new accommodations.
On Wednesday, Chandler was dismissed from jury duty, an option many nursing mothers take. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 17 states (not Minnesota) and Puerto Rico exempt nursing mothers from serving on a jury. Even with such a law in place, some women may want to serve this civic duty without sacrificing their ability to feed their children.
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