TFD sued over inadequate lactation space

2014-08-02T00:00:00Z 2014-08-02T15:38:05Z TFD sued over inadequate lactation spaceBy Darren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

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.

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@tucson.com. Follow on Twitter @DarrenDaRonco

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