By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon
DISH Network is forcing breastfeeding mothers to pump their milk in toilet stalls or to bare their breasts and pump in front of co-workers or supervisors, according to a complaint the ACLU has filed.
Failing to accommodate nursing mothers so they can pump their milk while at work is a “direct violation of federal and state law,” according to the complaint.
The ACLU has asked for a formal response from DISH by March 19.
The complaint alleges multiple failures to accommodate nursing mothers at DISH Network’s headquarters in Englewood and at a call center in Littleton, where the designated lactation room is located inside a bathroom.
“There is a state and national campaign to encourage women to make a healthy choice to breastfeed their babies,” said ACLU Staff Attorney Rebecca Wallace. “Yet, new mothers often return to work and face significant obstacles to breastfeeding when employers, like DISH Network, refuse to provide a private, hygienic, readily accessible place to express breast milk.”
Wallace said multiple women from the two DISH sites contacted the ACLU to get help. None have yet come forward to discuss their concerns with the media.
DISH spokesman John Hall released a statement saying, “We are still reviewing the ACLU complaint. DISH is committed to providing a safe, productive, healthy and family-friendly workplace, and we always welcome suggestions for improvement.”
Under both federal and state law, employers are supposed to provide sufficient private spaces other than a bathroom where nursing employees can express breast milk.
At the DISH headquarters, employees allege the company offered only one large room and failed to provide privacy screens. As a result, employees who often have to take breaks to pump at the same time had to bare their breasts in front of one-another. Wallace said that there are at least 12 women now who need to use the room. In once case, she said one employee had to pump in front of her supervisor, who was also expressing milk at the same time in the same room. Wallace said it’s embarrassing and degrading for some women to have to pump in front of other people at work.
At the call center, some women said they had to sit on the floor in order to pump.
“Failure to accommodate breastfeeding mothers in the workplace is not only illegal, it’s also bad for Colorado families and businesses because it forces women – an invaluable part of the workforce – to choose between breastfeeding their babies or returning to the workplace after giving birth,” Wallace said.
She said DISH could easily fix the problems by creating privacy screens at its headquarters and establishing a proper room for breastfeeding mothers at its call center.
“It is hard enough to balance the load of being a new mother and having a full-time job while still making time to breastfeed,” said Wallace.
She called on DISH and other employers to do everything they can to help women.
“We really want to take every opportunity to help bolster the state and national campaigns to encourage breastfeeding,” Wallace said. “It benefits employees and employers.”