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Lawsuit Claims FDNY Mechanic was Forced to Pump Milk In Front of Male Colleagues

— January 28, 2019

Vanessa Feeley is suing the city of New York and the FDNY over allegations of discrimination and claims that she was subjected to a hostile work environment while pumping breastmilk for her child.

A New York Fire Department (FDNY) mechanic recently filed a suit against the city and the FDNY after she was forced to pump breast milk in front of her male colleagues. According to the mechanic, 28-year-old Vanessa Feeley, “an outrageous work rule” forced her to walk around male firemen, supervisors, and mechanics with her breast pump attached every day for two months.

Breast pump display
Breast pump display; image courtesy of the Science History Institute via Wikimedia Commons,

While commenting on her ordeal, Feeley said, “anyone who worked in the building could see me at any point.” She added that the Fire Department violated federal law when it failed to provide her “with an area designated for breast-pumping at the Long Island City, Queens, repair shop where she worked.” Prior to the incident, she had given birth in April 2018 to her second daughter and was pumping breast milk to feed her.

In her suit, Feeley notes that she is the only female mechanic at the facility claims that when she returned from maternity leave in July, she was forced to “plop down in messy storage areas, empty conference rooms and the offices of vacationing employees to pump.” To make matters worse, she was also allegedly told by her supervisors that she had to “go off the clock while pumping.” Because of that, Feeley often used her “15-minute paid staff break, which started at 9 a.m., for at least some of her pumping, logging any extra time she needed on her computer after the fact.” That worked for a little while until she was allegedly told that “when she went past her break, she would have to clock out right away, on a scanner located in the middle of the office.” That meant after her 15-minute paid break, she had to “get up from wherever she was and walk in front of everyone to log out, still wearing her device under her shirt, if she wanted to continue uninterrupted to get the most efficient milk production.

Her suit argues that her ordeal never should have escalated to the level it did. She added that “all her supervisors had to do was let her use one of the many laptops around so she could log out from where she was.”

As a result of her treatment, Feeley is targeting the city and FDNY over allegations of discrimination and claims she was subjected to a hostile work environment. Additionally, she has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Eventually, she ended up going on “unpaid child-care leave in December because of the stress.”

When responding to the allegations, a spokesman for the city said:

“The FDNY is committed to providing employees who are new mothers nursing their children with appropriate lactation spaces…We’ll review the notice of claim.”

It should be noted that federal law requires employers to offer private breast-pumping accommodations to breastfeeding mothers.


FDNY mechanic forced to pump breast milk in public: lawsuit


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