BOSTON (CBS) — A nursing mother, starting a new job at the State House, contacted WBZ-TV’s I-Team after she was required to sign a document in order to use the nursing mother’s room on the fifth floor to pump breast milk for her new baby.
“It sends to me a very alarming message,” she said.
The one-page sheet of paper required that she disclose how many months she anticipated needing the room to pump.
The document also states: “I understand that the use of the room will not compromise my ability to perform my job duties.”
At the end of the sheet, it also says: “The employee and her supervisor should maintain a copy of this form and a copy should be placed in the employee’s personnel file.”
The mother, who did not want to be identified, told us she couldn’t believe what she was being asked to sign.
“At first I was shocked. Once shock subsided, I was profoundly disappointed. Whether implicit or explicit, it sends a message that I can either be a mother or an employee but I can’t be both at the same time,” she said.
According to Marsha Walker, a Registered Nurse and a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, the policy unfairly singles out working mothers.
“Why do we want to punish mothers for doing what they are being recommended to do?” she said.
It could also open the door to possible discrimination, according to attorney Sol Cohen.
“This woman could be applying internally for a different position or a promotion. During the process of applying for a promotion, either the interviewers or others in the department that she’s applying through, would be looking through her personnel file,” he said.
Cambridge State Representative Marjorie Decker was also shocked when we showed her the document.
“Now that you’ve brought it to our attention, to everyone’s attention they will quickly realize not only is it inappropriate and insulting, to begin with, it’s now illegal and violates the intent of the law we just passed,” she said. Decker is talking about the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act which takes effect in April and provides added protection for pregnant and nursing mothers in the workplace.
Decker reached out to Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo who took immediate action.
A staffer sent out an email with this directive: “Please immediately discontinue use of the attached form with respect to House employees as it does not conform to our Human Resources Policy. Moreover, I suggest you reach out to House, Senate and Governor’s Counsel to request a review of the form to ensure it complies with all applicable law.”
The mother we spoke to told us the document was just another barrier to women in the workplace, and the State House specifically.
“I don’t think there should be a contract you have to sign that basically acts as a barrier to taking care of your family,” she said.
When we reached out to the Governor’s office we were told use of the form would be discontinued immediately.
A spokesperson sent us this statement:
“The Baker-Polito Administration’s Division of Human Resources does not distribute this form to employees and believes no Statehouse employee should be asked to fill it out. In accordance with federal law, the administration’s policy is to provide reasonable accommodations to nursing mothers, and we look forward to ensuring all executive branch policies are updated to meet guidelines included in the recently passed Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.”