A Tucson Fire paramedic has been awarded a $3.8 million settlement after the department failed to provide her with a private place to pump her breast milk and retaliated against her when she complained, court documents show.
The city of Tucson is not commenting on the federal jury’s decision but is evaluating the city’s position for an appeal, spokeswoman Lane Mandle told the Arizona Daily Star.
Carrie Clark filed a lawsuit against the city in July 2014, saying Tucson Fire Department officials and city human-resources personnel denied her requests to transfer to fire stations that could accommodate her while pumping breast milk, according to Star archives.
After Clark informed the city that TFD may have violated federal labor standards by denying her access, city officials retaliated and continued to harass her further, she said.
Clark said in court documents that the alternatives the city offered included private bedrooms being used by fire chiefs or captains, which would have required her waking those officers every few hours and asking them to leave the room so she could pump, which she considered inappropriate, Star archives show.
Federal labor standards require that employers provide break time for employees to pump breast milk for one year after a baby is born and also provide a private place, other than a bathroom, where employees can pump, the U.S. Department of Labor website shows.
In December 2014, the case was moved from Pima County Superior Court to U.S. District Court, where it languished for several years.
Clark’s trial began April 1 of this year and the jury returned a verdict April 12, saying the city violated Clark’s Title VII rights, the Fair Labor Standards Act and retaliated against her in both cases.
When Clark filed suit against the city, City Attorney Mike Rankin said the Fire Department’s response to Clark’s requests met legal requirements.
Former TFD Chief Joe Gulotta told the Star in August 2014 that several fire stations had been modified to ensure that all workplaces were in compliance with federal and city requirements.
Clark gave birth in 2012 and requested a transfer to a station with a private area for pumping, along with refrigerator space for storing her milk, Star archives show.
Clark found a colleague who was willing to transfer out of a station with appropriate accommodations to free up a spot for Clark, but TFD officials ignored the request.
Clark, who returned to work as a swing paramedic, began to bounce around fire stations that weren’t equipped with appropriate spaces.
When she voiced her concerns, TFD and city officials ignored her, saying she didn’t deserve special accommodations and questioned her need to pump every two to three hours, according to Star archives.
TFD officials continued to retaliate against Clark after the lawsuit was filed in Pima County Superior Court, including giving her educational counseling for “not being in harmony with others” and involuntarily transferring her in 2016, according to court documents from the federal case.
Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4191. Twitter: @caitlincschmidt