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Failure to Provide Lactation Room Costs Tucson Fire Department $3.8 Million

Carrie Clark, a paramedic, brought suit against the Tucson Fire Department for discrimination and retaliation after she was denied a private area to pump breast milk.
The Fair Labor and Standards Act requires employers to provide a location, other than a bathroom, for non-exempt employees to express breast milk. Clark claimed that the fire department refused to provide her “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.” At the time of her request, the fire department did not have a policy in place to address this issue. At one point, the fire department offered her the Captain’s private bathroom, but she had to wake him up in order for her to use it. Without an appropriate location, Clark used vacation and sick-leave time to pump in a private space offsite. Clark was assigned to many different fire department locations, all without appropriate spaces for her to pump. The Human Relations Manager told her “your pumping seems excessive to me” and “it seems to me that you’re not fit for duty” in response to Clark’s need to pump every two to three hours. Clark also alleged that the department retaliated against her for the requests by having her perform drills not required of other employees, telling her to bring a doctor’s note to exercise, and directing her exercise in a specific location, also not required of other employees.
The Arizona jury was persuaded and awarded her $3.8 million in damages. Providing lactation space is required under federal law for employers with at least 50 employees. Clark asserted that at the time of her lawsuit, 40% of the city’s fire stations were not compliant with the law.