Smithsonian vows improvement after breast-pumping employees’ complaint

WASHINGTON — Following complaints from female employees of the Smithsonian who need to pump breast milk at work, the institution is promising changes at its museums and research centers.

An Oct. 7 letter to Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution Dr. David Skorton from the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital and the First Shift Justice Project describes employees who are nursing moms at two museums trying to use empty rooms for breast pumping, only to have male co-workers walk in on them.

Federal law requires employers to provide a private pumping space that’s not a bathroom.

“This is not just about space, this is about ensuring full equality for women in the workplace,” says the ACLU’s Jennifer Wedekind.

“We’re also concerned about what seems to be a sort of indifference to the rights of these breast-feeding mothers and a lack of respect for their privacy.”

The ACLU says one employee who approached her managers before going on maternity leave to ask about appropriate places to breast pump when she returned, was told to “figure it out” by herself.

The Smithsonian is responding.

“We plan to make appropriate spaces available in every building, and make sure we follow up with staff so everyone is aware,” says spokeswoman Sarah Sulick.

“We will do the right thing for our staff,” she adds.

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