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Home > Topics > EMS Management
August 05, 2014

Tucson Fire paramedic sues for lack of space to pump breast milk

The $300,000 suit claims the city denied her request to work at fire stations with private areas

By Darren DaRonco
The Arizona Daily Star

TUCSON, Ariz. — A Tucson Fire paramedic is suing the city for $300,000 over what she claims is a failure to provide her with a private place to pump her breast milk.

Carrie Clark claimed Tucson Fire officials and city human resources personnel denied her requests to work at fire stations that could accommodate her breast pumping.

And after she pointed out to the city that TFD may have violated federal labor standards by denying her consistent access to a private breast-pumping area, city officials retaliated and subjected her to further harassment, Clark said in court records.

She said alternatives the city offered included such locations as private bedrooms being used by fire chiefs or captains, which she said would have required waking those officers every two to three hours and asking them to vacate their rooms, which she considered inappropriate.

TFD officials said the department stands behind employees and their families. "The department fully supports all of our firefighters as they build their families, including our female firefighters who have children," TFD Assistant Chief Joe Gulotta wrote in an email.

City Attorney Mike Rankin also said he believes the department's response to Clark's requests met the legal requirements.

Gulotta said the department has taken steps to ensure its stations can meet employees' needs.

"The department has modified several fire stations to assure that every workplace within the department is in compliance with federal and city requirements," Gulotta wrote.

Federal labor standards require employers to provide break time for employees to pump breast milk whenever necessary for one year after a baby is born.

Federal requirements also stipulate employers must provide a private place, other than a bathroom, where employees can pump breast milk, according to the United States Department of Labor website.

Clark returned to work as a swing paramedic after giving birth in October 2012. Swing paramedics work at different stations based on where they are needed.

Shortly after returning, Clark requested a transfer to Station 12, which already had an employee pumping breast milk and contained the appropriate private area for pumping and adequate refrigerator space for storing it, court records said.

Clark found a colleague who was willing to transfer out of that station so Clark might get reassigned there. But TFD officials ignored the request, records said.

Clark landed at the station in November, but it was only temporary.

Beginning in January, Clark began to bounce around fire stations which "were not equipped with appropriate lactation rooms," records said.

When Clark spoke up about not having a private place to breast-pump, TFD and city officials ignored her, asserted she didn't deserve special accommodations or questioned her need to pump every two to three hours as excessive, court records show.

Clark's precarious work schedule caused stress and anxiety, which inhibited her from producing adequate amounts of breast milk for her baby, court records show.

Clark said she had been harassed and discriminated against ever since she returned from having a baby.

___

(c)2014 The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, Ariz.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Distributed by MCT Information Services

Comments
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Alexandra Deyo Alexandra Deyo Tuesday, August 05, 2014 7:31:39 PM Lots of moms support you Carrie!!!
Dominick Walenczak Dominick Walenczak Tuesday, August 05, 2014 7:32:14 PM It's just like all firefighters... they all want to be on the pumper. Ha! But seriously, she may have a winnable grievance here.
Barnet Wexler Barnet Wexler Tuesday, August 05, 2014 7:42:24 PM She needs to contact our union here in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. They argued that a working paramedic is/may be exposed to a biological uncontrolled dangerous environment. And as such, may be exposed to pathogens that can be transferred to the nursing baby/child. So, the workers compensation bureau would be responsible for any/all future medical costs to the child for its entire life. They now, will not allow a pregnant nor nursing mother to work. They prefer to pay her to stay home until she is no longer nursing her child. She gets paid 90% of her prepregnancy salary until she comes back to work.
Bob Margetin Bob Margetin Tuesday, August 05, 2014 8:00:16 PM I am for her but they did offer her the officer's private room and she turned them down. If the room was to be hers solely she will have a problem. Hope everything is documanted!!!
Joseph Alexander Wooten Joseph Alexander Wooten Tuesday, August 05, 2014 8:03:53 PM maybe im being oblivious here, but why wouldnt the restroom be considered private and work as a place to pump milk???
Kathi Kramer Turner Kathi Kramer Turner Tuesday, August 05, 2014 8:21:12 PM Because it is the equivalent of you eating your lunch sitting on a toilet seat.
Devin Nemec Devin Nemec Tuesday, August 05, 2014 9:01:15 PM Bathrooms are specifically prohibited by the law. (That means the law literally says that you cannot pump in the bathroom.)
Devin Nemec Devin Nemec Tuesday, August 05, 2014 9:01:43 PM They offered a bathroom, which is specifically prohibited by the law.
Devin Nemec Devin Nemec Tuesday, August 05, 2014 9:02:22 PM I wish that was the law in the US. It'd make life SO much easier for parents.
Krisha Elmore Krisha Elmore Tuesday, August 05, 2014 9:12:18 PM Many many times I would pump in my car. My employer provided space but I was more comfortable in my own space. Good luck to her but I don't think it's necessary.
Bob Margetin Bob Margetin Tuesday, August 05, 2014 9:16:41 PM Read it again she was offered a private bedroom!! I agree about the bathroom and support her 100% just hope she did the cya!!
Devin Nemec Devin Nemec Tuesday, August 05, 2014 9:25:50 PM Bob Margetin It would appear that I misread that sentence.
Nikki Ki Hauser Nikki Ki Hauser Wednesday, August 06, 2014 6:55:02 AM They offered a higher ups bedroom, who she would have to wake up when she needed to pump. That is not a dedicated lactation space as outline by law.
Nikki Ki Hauser Nikki Ki Hauser Wednesday, August 06, 2014 6:56:01 AM Take your lunch and eat it in a restroom. Not me. Law prohibits restrooms and mandates a dedicated space.
Natalie Quebodeaux Cavender Natalie Quebodeaux Cavender Wednesday, August 06, 2014 6:30:29 PM Good for you that you're comfy pumping in your car. I'm not. Our parking lot is not private. Anyone can walk up to my car and see my breasts exposed. There's also not a lot of room. When I pump, I like to relax so I can get the best pumping output I can. It isn't excessive. Not everyone can just do what worked for you. Everyone is different. I'm lucky enough that my employer gives me a private office to pump when I please. And sometimes it's every 2 hours, sometimes it's every 4 or 5!
Natalie Quebodeaux Cavender Natalie Quebodeaux Cavender Wednesday, August 06, 2014 6:31:54 PM Do you like to eat your lunch in the bathroom? Are your bathroom stalls super clean and spacious? Do they all have electrical outlets and a little table to place your pump so it's not on the floor or the toilet?
Krisha Elmore Krisha Elmore Wednesday, August 06, 2014 7:01:35 PM I was never exposed. I used blankets on the window and a nursing cover. This was strictly my liking. To each their own but I don't think that she should be suiting for money but for changes within the company/regulations.
Devin Nemec Devin Nemec Wednesday, August 06, 2014 7:45:48 PM Nikki Ki Hauser It doesn't have to be "dedicated", but it does have to be private, secure (ie lock), and accessible whenever needed. Most likely the space failed in one of these areas. Maybe it had big windows facing the road or common area. Maybe the "door" was a beaded curtain. Maybe asking the top guy in the station to give up his office while she pumped was intimidating, inappropriate, and discouraging (most likely scenario). Whatever the reason, it wasn't deemed as adequate and her lawyer appears to agree.

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