Breastfeeding NYPD Officers File Lawsuit Alleging Unsanitary Conditions and Mistreatment

Supermajority Education Fund

January 8, 2020

A federal class-action lawsuit filed by a group of female New York Police Department (NYPD) officers on Dec. 29 says that the country’s largest police department failed to provide appropriate accommodations to nursing employees. The suit alleges the officers were forced to pump in filthy lounges, were not given sufficient break time to express milk, and were prohibited from getting refitted for new protective vests when their chest sizes changed.

New York City passed two laws in 2018 that require employers to provide employees with lactation areas and a written lactation policy. The Fair Labor Standards Act also guarantees the right to pump at work for most employees.

“These women knew they had these rights. This has been the law, and it applies to all industries, including when you are a police officer,” civil rights attorney Eric Sanders, who is representing the group, told Supermajority News. “All women have the right to express milk.”

Enforcement of the Fair Labor Standards Act, however, is often inconsistent, especially for those employed in traditionally male-dominated fields, according to the advocacy organization A Better Balance. Many nursing parents also fear they will be discriminated against in the workplace if they ask for accommodations.

“Being a police officer is just a job. They are not superhuman — they are just human beings like everyone else,” said Sanders. “They are afraid of retaliation. They are concerned with keeping their employment.”

One police officer told the New York Post that the only refrigerator available for her to store her breast milk in was located in a women’s restroom that was filled with maggots. Others said they were transferred to less-desirable assignments or mocked by supervisors when they inquired about accommodations.

Officer Elizabeth Ortiz told the Post that the conditions at her station were so bad that she stopped breastfeeding much earlier than she originally planned. “That was the most heartbreaking thing — choosing my job or choosing my son and not making any waves,” she said.

The NYPD said in a statement that the department works to accommodate the needs of nursing officers. “The NYPD is committed to providing its employees with appropriate accommodations to express breast milk privately, comfortably, and in close proximity to work,” said NYPD spokesperson Jessica McRorie in a statement. “Requests to express breast milk are presumed granted upon request to meet the immediate needs of the employee. This allows both the employee and the department to engage in a dialogue to determine an appropriate schedule, a reasonable amount of time to express milk and available locations to lactate.”

Since the lawsuit was filed, several lawmakers have called for an audit of the NYPD’s lactation policies. 

“The disturbing allegations in this lawsuit show that our City is failing working mothers,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams in a statement. “We cannot claim we are leading on gender equality when women are unable to safely pump breast milk without facing ridicule or dangerous conditions.”