Work Life Balance

Colorado Teacher Fired For Pumping At Work, And We Should All Be Outraged

By  | 

A recent article in Time‘s Healthland Blog asks the question, “Should pumping at work get you fired?” The ACLU says “No,” because they are taking up the case of a Colorado teacher who was told that her breaks for pumping during work were unacceptable. Let me join in with the ACLU and say that this is completely ridiculous. In fact, it’s downright criminal.

A teacher, who had favorable reviews for her entire career, needed to take a ten minute break during two classes throughout the day, three times a week. It ended up being one hour per week that she had an aide cover her classroom. Apparently, that one hour was important enough to cost Heather Burgbacher her job.

As mothers, I feel like we should all be jumping in line to support this woman. Any mom that goes back to work has to battle with nursing schedules and breastfeeding difficulties. Many moms, like myself, have such a difficult time taking breaks that our milk supply dries up and we’re forced to switch to formula. When this happened to me, I felt like I had failed my daughter. I was miserable and guilty. The entire experience was horrible and it left me anger and frustrated with my place of work and with myself.

Breastfeeding is important for children’s development. It’s recommended by the World Health Organization. While it’s every woman’s choice if she wants to pump, she should always be able to make that decision for herself. Burgbacher stated, “To be told by my HR director to stop pumping and start supplementing floored me.” And it should have. No company has the right to tell a woman that she can’t take the time to nourish her child in the way that she sees fit.

For many mothers, going back to work is a difficult process. We should be supporting and encouraging these mothers. Any company that actively discriminates against new mothers for their choice to breastfeed needs to be told that this isn’t acceptable. There’s no question, a woman should never be fired for choosing to pump at work.

[UPDATE: Heather Burgbacher won her case against her employers. She received an undisclosed cash settlement as well as concessions from the school district so that other working mothers won’t go through the same issues she did.]