Working mum praised for closing store to breast pump

A new mother is being praised after she temporarily closed a convenience store to pump breast milk for her daughter in the back of the shop.

New mum Emily Edgington, 23, was working at a Family Dollar store in Ohio, US, alone without anyone to relieve her so she could breast pump. So she posted a sign on the glass doors explaining the temporary closure.

“Sorry. Had to pump for baby and no one else is here. Be back in 30. Thanks,” it read.

Emily, mother of a three-month-old daughter Eliana, said she never thought she would have to close the store, and had never done it before to pump.

“But my daughter’s health and being able to eat was my main concern,” the assistant manager told Yahoo Lifestyle.

“I wrote the sign, took a picture to show my manager, prayed to God that I wouldn’t get fired or written up for it, and stuck it up on the doors.”

Emily Edgington is an assistant manager at a Family Dollar store in Mansfield, Ohio. Photo: Supplied/Emily Edgington
Emily Edgington is an assistant manager at a Family Dollar store in Mansfield, Ohio. Photo: Supplied/Emily Edgington

A customer named Codey Burghard saw the sign at the store, took a photo of it, and posted it to her Facebook account.

Codey expressed support for the new mum by writing, “Pumping at work is a right and employers can’t take that away.”

“Even understaffed, moms gotta do what they gotta do.”

Since then, the post has been shared over 21,000 times, with many women applauding the “dedicated mum” for her actions.

Stopped at the dollar store and seen this…I'm sure there's gonna be at least one customer who complains, but I support…

Posted by Codey Burghard on Friday, February 1, 2019

Codey set off to find the woman behind the sign when Emily responded to the post with her side of the story.

“I had two choices … run back and forth to pump every couple of minutes to check out customers or lock the doors and pump as needed — uninterrupted because that is my right,” Emily wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday.

Because any breastfeeding mother knows that pumping for a couple minutes, then running back and forth isn’t realistic.

In Australia, under both the Federal and all State legislation it is unlawful to treat a woman less favourably because she is breastfeeding or to treat a person less favourably based on their status as a parent.

This means it may be against the law for an employer to refuse to make arrangements to assist an employee to breastfeed at work or accommodate an employee’s breastfeeding needs (including expressing), the Australian Breastfeeding Association states.

However, when it comes the workplace, there is no legislation to give mothers in the paid workforce the legal right to paid breastfeeding breaks. There is also no legislation to cover a baby or child being at a workplace with a parent.

Emily Edgington with her 3-month-old daughter, Eliana Lulenski-Edgington. Photo: Supplied/Emily Edgington
Emily Edgington with her 3-month-old daughter, Eliana Lulenski-Edgington. Photo: Supplied/Emily Edgington

In the US federal law requires employers to provide reasonable break times and a private space that is not a bathroom for breastfeeding mothers, but there are gaping loopholes that leave many women unprotected.

Although Emily had informed several other managers and the district manager that she would need a place to pump when she was three months into her pregnancy, she said the Family Dollar store neglected to prepare adequately when she came back eight months later.

According to Emily, an employee with corporate human resources told her to “run back and forth every couple of minutes to pump in between customers,” which may be in violation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

By her second week back, Emily said the Family Dollar store had scheduled her to work several five- to seven-hour shifts alone, with no one to man the register while she pumped milk in the back. After working two shifts without pumping that left her “feverish, engorged, with sharp pains in [her] breasts and chest,” she took matters into her own hands.

Emily wrote on Facebook that, going forward, she hopes “corporations will start paying more attention to their policies and our human rights and be held accountable”.

“I encourage all mothers to look up their workplace policy and verify that all of their rights listed are being enacted. If they’re not, do not be afraid to use your voice, and if they don’t listen after being told your needs repeatedly, do what you need to do, put up a sign, and know that you are protected,” she said.

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