SHELBY COUNTY, Ind. — A central Indiana mother says she was wrongfully fired after asking her managers to find a suitable place at work where she could pump her breast milk.
Erika Zinn told WXIN she was thrilled when she found out she’d been hired on as a seasonal employee at Rural King in Shelbyville.
But a few days later, she said she was fired.
The first-time mom said she breastfeeds because her 11-month-old daughter refuses to drink anything else.
So when she was brought on to work at Rural King, she was up front about her needs.
“I brought that up immediately in my orientation explaining that…if I work over 4 hours, I need to pump,” explained Zinn. “I need to have milk at home for her. She won’t take formula.”
She said a manager told her to use the restroom during her break. Zinn refused.
“Why would I prepare what my daughter drinks where someone else is using the toilet?”
Zinn said, a co-worker then told her she could use a fitting room in the store.
Zinn said she was happy with the arrangement.
However, a few days later, Zinn was told again to use the restroom.
That day, she said, a manager brought her into an office and let her go.
“He said that due to my availability not being completely open and my needs, all the issues that arose due to my needs, that I wasn’t a good suit for the job.”
Zinn said her availability was made clear in her application.
If it wasn’t acceptable, why was she hired in the first place, she wondered.
“My availability didn’t change from my application. They had time to review that,” she said. “I think they fired me because I wouldn’t quietly pump in the bathroom.”
According to the Indiana Law Code, “an employer shall provide a private location, other than a toilet stall, where an employee can express the employee’s breast milk in privacy during any period away from the employee’s assigned duties.”
“Indiana Code 22-2-14 functionally encourages employers with 25 or more employees to provide employees a private location to express breast milk and provide for or allow cold storage of expressed breast milk,” wrote Robert Dittmer, Director of Public Relations for the Indiana Department of Labor.
Zinn said she called the IDOL and reported a complaint.
WXIN called Rural King’s corporate office.
Tim Lodes with the Human Resources Department said store managers know the labor laws but wouldn’t comment any further about Zinn’s termination.
“It’s a personnel matter. I think that we did look into it and I guess the Department of Labor and EEOC is going to be looking into it and you know I need to deal with that,” Lodes said.
He added that what Zinn said may not turn out to be what actually happened but wouldn’t elaborate any further.
Zinn said she simply wants other mothers to know their rights and for businesses to respect those rights.
“I was doing a good job at work, but simply because I wanted to do the best for my daughter I lost my job. That’s not right,” Zinn said.
Even if IDOL finds Zinn was wrongfully terminated, Dittmer stressed, “…we have no jurisdiction in these cases. The law did not establish an agency responsible for enforcement.”
He said the EEOC may have to get involved or Zinn may need to pursue civil action.