Concord woman sues NCDOT for failure to provide adequate space for breast-pumping, having live camera in room

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A Concord woman is suing the N.C. Department of Transportation for allegedly not providing adequate space for her to breast pump.

The lawsuit filed in December 2023 to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina states that leadership with the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for discriminating on the basis of sex.

The allegations state the DMV failed to make meaningful accommodations to expressing breast milk during work and impeded an employee from using a private and secure location to do so.

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According to court documents, Tyima Jenkins returned to her position at the DMV from maternity leave in March 2022. At that time, she would go home to pump, but due to having to work in the field, she often did so in her vehicle. The suit states she was assigned a vehicle that had ongoing mechanical issues, including a non-working air conditioning unit.

This made the process uncomfortable, but the high temperatures also made it difficult for her to keep breast milk cool, the lawsuit states.

After requesting a new vehicle, supervisors Lt. Troutman and Lt. Landis designated the office’s records room as the lactation room. The suit states this was inferior to the space that Troutman had been provided upon her return from maternity leave.

A sign was placed on the door, and only three office managers, including Landis and Troutman, had keys to the room. A few months later, Landis reportedly walked in on Jenkins while she was pumping despite the sign being up. She told him twice that she was pumping before he left the room, the lawsuit states.

Another time, the suit states that the records room was locked so Jenkins entered an adjacent room to pump. Jenkins placed a “do not enter” sign on that door, but an employee walked in on her pumping.

In August 2022, Jenkins then requested for better accommodations to pump due to a lack of privacy and security. Another office was designated, and Landis sent an email to employees stating this change.

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Later that day, Jenkins overheard employees talking about walking in on her, and Ratliff saying that she “looked like a deer in headlights,” which made Jenkins uncomfortable.

A few weeks later, Jenkins noticed a camera in the office she used for pumping. She asked Troutman about it, and she said there was a piece of paper covering it, but “it must’ve fallen off.” A live camera in a room designated for breastfeeding was in direct violation of the law.

The suit states that Jenkins was expressing her breast milk less, and her breasts would become engorged and painful while working. She also would resort to pumping in her vehicle or going home when her schedule permitted due to her being uncomfortable at the office.

By September 2022, Jenkins’ milk supply had reportedly decreased significantly. Because she was no longer producing an adequate supply, she was no longer able to provide breast milk for her child while he was in daycare which deprived him of the myriad benefits of breastfeeding. By mid-October, her milk supply had dried up, the lawsuit states.

On Nov. 4, 2022, Jenkins filed an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint under the Office of State Human Resources Employee Grievance Policy against the DMV.

The NCDOT EEO office issued a finding on Jan. 3, 2023, that determined the DMV failed to follow state and federal mandates when they placed her in a room with a camera.

The suit states Jenkins was forced to leave her position due to the emotional harm. It names Wayne Goodwin as the defendant in his official capacity as DMV commissioner.

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In 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to require employers to provide a nursing mother reasonable break time to express breast milk after the birth of her child. The amendment also requires that employers provide a place for an employee to express breast milk privately without interruption.

As a result of the sex discrimination, Jenkins is seeking damages in an amount to be determined at trial. She demands a trial by jury.

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