Nobody likes to be called for jury duty. But when you're a breastfeeding mom, jury duty is one of the most inconvenient obligations imaginable.
Amanda Chandler, a breastfeeding mom near Minneapolis, tried to get out of jury duty in early March because she's breastfeeding and acts as the sole caregiver of her 2-year-old daughter during the day. But her local government wasn't having it and told her she had to show up just like everybody else. The best they could offer was a $40 reimbursement for non-licensed childcare per day, and to give her appropriate time to take breaks and pump.
A clerk Chandler spoke with on the phone prior to jury duty tried to soothe her anxiety about staying on a pumping schedule by telling her about the private "quiet room" they'd just recently put in place for nursing moms and people who need a private space to pray while visiting the Hennepin County Government Center. (The state of Minnesota also has a law that protects nursing mothers and requires them to be provided with a private space to breastfeed or pump that isn't a bathroom.)
The first day went OK, although there were two other nursing moms she had to share the room with. The women decided to sacrifice a little personal privacy to accommodate each other's pumping schedules without making anyone wait until the other was finished.
Despite being assured that she'd be able to pump on schedule even if selected for a jury, on her second day, Chandler was not able to pump all morning. She had modified her pumping schedule to fewer sessions, but after trying to advocate for herself with multiple clerks and even the judge (who Chandler notes in her Facebook post was a woman), she was repeatedly told to wait.
Although her modified schedule should have had her pumping at least four times during the day, she was only able to pump twice. Anyone who has ever used a breast pump to express breastmilk knows cutting the number of times you pump in half, despite still making the same amount of milk is like asking for a case of mastitis.
When she asked to pump later in the day, she told Today, a clerk offered a private unisex bathroom rather than the quiet room she'd used the first day.
"She apologized because it wasn't the nicest," Chandler said, "but told me that a female coworker used it to pump regularly, and that is why they were offering it to me."
Not only that, the small bathroom setup meant she had to sit in a chair next to a urinal to use her pump.
Terrible experience at jury duty today. As a nursing mother I was completely disappointed with the lack of regard and dismissal I felt when trying to pump (express breastmilk) on a schedule today....
After her day ended, she was pretty upset and posted on Facebook about the incident, including a photo of the unisex bathroom setup, with her pump and the urinal in close proximity. As if that wasn't enough, the judge called her in the next morning and chastised her for posting on social media about her experience before she was dismissed from jury duty.
Chandler has decided to file a formal complaint about being asked to use a unisex bathroom to pump, but she hasn't heard back from the county yet.