a coworker (knowingly?) walked in on me while I was pumping breast milk

A reader writes:

I’ve recently returned to work from my maternity leave, and as I am still breastfeeding, I need to take breaks to express breast milk throughout the day. I know the law requires I have a space with a locking door, but my office doesn’t have any doors with locks. I had worked it out with my manager that I can use her office unless she is on a call and can’t leave, in which case I would use the supply room (where our large printers and copy machine are located) and put a “Do Not Enter” sign on the door. There is precedent for this kind of thing in my office — people often use the supply room to change in and out of workout clothes and put a similar sign on the door.

This arrangement has been working just fine for the three weeks I have been back at work, but this morning when I was in the middle of pumping in the supply room, someone opened the door, took papers off the printer, whispered “sorry!” and left. It all happened so fast that I only had time to quickly spin away from view. The sign was on the door. I suppose it’s possible that he didn’t notice the sign, but that door is never closed unless someone is changing or I’m using it. The way the “sorry!” was delivered, I get the impression he knew what he was doing and did it anyway.

I’m understandably shaken by this. I know I need to talk with my (supportive) manager and let her know this arrangement is no longer acceptable, as I can’t trust I won’t be walked in on. I feel like the best solution is to ask for a lock to be installed on the door, but I don’t want to sound demanding or like I’m trying to make trouble for her? If that makes sense? I suppose I just need help figuring out how to word it.

Whoa, yeah, that’s definitely not okay.

Like really, really not okay.

Not only should you ask for a lock on the door, but what the hell is up with your coworker? That needs to be addressed too.

Asking for a lock on the door isn’t demanding or trouble-making. The law doesn’t require that there be a lock on the door (assuming you’re in the U.S.), but it does require that the room be “free from intrusion.” Yours isn’t meeting that standard currently. And really, installing a lock is not an expensive thing; it’s going to cost your employer as much as a few boxes of printer paper. You could say it this way: “The current system isn’t ensuring the privacy it’s supposed to, and I don’t think I can keep pumping in there knowing that someone could walk in at any time. Can we please get a lock installed there this week?”

And this would be reasonable to say as well: “I’d like to ask that someone have a serious conversation with Fergus about what he did. He appeared to know that I was in there when he walked in — and even if he didn’t, once he saw I was there, he walked on in anyway to go to the printer. That’s not in any way okay, and I want to ensure it’s addressed.”

Frankly, if you’re comfortable with it, you could also have a serious conversation with the coworker yourself. The dynamics may be too weird/uncomfortable to address it yourself if he’s senior to you, but otherwise there’s no reason you can’t say to him, “You walked into a private room with a ‘do not enter’ sign on the door, one where people are known to change clothes, pump, and other private activities. And when you saw I was using the room, you came in anyway. Why?” … followed by, “That was a huge violation of privacy and basic decency. Don’t ever do that again.”

I don’t often recommend using an angry tone at work, but I think you can sound pretty clearly pissed off here.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 667 comments… read them below }

  1. Aurion*


    Some places do have super-hard, no-excuses deadlines where if it’s even a minute late it won’t be accepted (I’m thinking of submissions to courts, for example), but if this office does deal with that kind of super-hard, no-excuses deadline, they would never use the printer room as the privacy room. So this coworker has no excuse; even if he hadn’t noticed the sign his reaction should’ve been “oh shit, I am so sorry” and running away.

    1. Risha*

      I can see someone mistakenly thinking that it wouldn’t be a huge deal to grab something from the printer really quick because many women are comfortable breastfeeding in public. But even in that case, with the sign up I’d expect them to knock first and wait for permission!

      1. Aurion*

        Since other people use the room as a change room on the regular, I don’t think anyone with common sense would risk it. It’s not like the door has any identifiers on who’s inside. “Oh, Sarah is changing so I better not go in, but OP is expressing milk so that should be okay, right?”

        1. Risha*

          I was giving the benefit of the doubt that this was a small enough place that the person knew for sure who was in there and that she uses it to pump. But agreed that it shows a total lack of thought regardless!

        2. Justanotherthought*

          Since breast pumps aren’t exactly quiet, they could have heard it through the door and realized that’s what was happening. STILL NOT OK, but that was my thought.

        3. Emmie*

          Maybe part of the issue is that people are doing things like changing in the room, monopolizing a room where people need to do things like grab stuff off the printer. I’d probably cut out the non-essential activities in that room (changing) and leave it off limits for medical reasons only (pumping.). This isn’t OP’s fault. He was still gross for going in that room, and Alison’s advice is excellent. Defiant address this with your manager and ensure that the man’s entry is addressed.

          1. TootsNYC*

            changing clothes doesn’t have to take a long time, and it wouldn’t monopolize the room for very long at all, so I don’t see that change as being all that necessary.

            If anything, it underscores the idea that a lock is needed. What if he’d walked in on someone changing?

            1. Anonymoose*

              Seriously, what is up with this non-locked door thing? Why aren’t people using bathroom stalls like the rest of us changers? Weird. Do the bathroom doors not lock too?

              1. nonegiven*

                There is no way in the world I could change in a stall. I’d end up dipping something in toilet water.

            2. Emmie*

              It might not be needed. If the room is being used for that frequently and there’s other options (like a locked bathroom), it might address some other issues. It could be frustrating to have printing room occupied for quick 5 minute changes a few times a day and also pumping. (To be clear, pumping in private is completely legitimate.). I can imagine being a person who has to wait for people to change while I need to get a document. It would get frustrating after a while waiting for those who could use other spaces like a bathroom.

              1. Software Engineer*

                I mean technically you can sometimes use a bathroom but they don’t always have an outlet in a convenient place, and I do not want to sit on a TOILET for 20-30 minutes to pump. Also, you’re preparing your baby’s food. Unless you think it’s reasonable to sit on the toilet while you make yourself a sandwich, ‘just use the bathroom ‘ is not a reasonable compromise

                1. SarahKay*

                  I think Emmie was meaning that the people changing in the printing room should use the bathroom, thus reducing the time the printing room is tied up, and (hopefully) making it less likely that people pumping in the print room would be interrupted, since there’d be less general frustration of “oh, for goodness’ sake, can’t I ever get in to pick up my prints!”.

                2. Hurricane Wakeen*

                  To be clear, the law provides that a designated pumping space must not be a bathroom.

      2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        Yeah, my sense is that this was a lapse in judgment rather than purposefully being an arrogant d-bag (although the second is certainly possible), but it’s a seriously lapse in judgment all the same and I completely understand the OP’s position.

        1. Mike*

          Yeah the coworker probably though “it’ll be OK if I dart in quickly” or something similar.

      3. Zinnia*

        Pumping is so not the same as breastfeeding in public. Modest, almost unnoticeable breastfeeding is easy with the right clothing / blanket. Pumping is not. So very not comparable.

        1. Emi.*

          Yeah, but lots of people don’t know that. I didn’t, until someone explained it in the comments on an earlier post here.

        2. Southern Ladybug*

          Absolutely. Also, coworkers etc are different (to me). I took my infant to an event (totally appropriate) and many people I interact with professionally were there. I chose to find a more private spot to breastfeed than I would have in a different situation.

          (The fact I brought up AAM to read while I am quite literally pumping in my locked office has me feeling particularly enraged on the OP’s behalf.)

        3. Steph B*

          AMEN. I didn’t even like my husband seeing me pump, through the almost 3 years I pumped.

          And I breastfed both my daughters in public numerous times. Most of the time nobody even realized I was nursing, but even if they did I was OK with it. Totally and completely different.

          1. Cercis*

            I mean, I did and so did some other women I know. Some of us with battery powered pumps have body types that lend themselves to hands-free pumping and we’d pump in the car on our commute. So, sort of public. And I did pump in my car on my breaks because it beat the bathroom.

            FWIW – I don’t recommend pumping while driving but it was less distracting than any phone ever has been. I could hook it up before leaving the house and wouldn’t need to touch it until I got off the highway (where I could pull over in a parking lot and change sides). I was a horrible pumper and for whatever reason I could pump so much more on my commute than any other time (except when I was pumping while nursing). I think it’s because I was focused on driving and ignored the pump which allowed my body to “do its thing”.

            I’d say over the last 19 years, I’ve known at least half a dozen women who have also confessed to doing this. All of have been “OMG, you TOO?!”

            1. dawbs*

              Same except I TOTALLY recommend pumping while driving all the time. I had an hour+ commute each way when my daughter was little, and I could do a double pump with an ‘after pump’ in each direction. I had to buy larger bottles at my peak because I actually overflowed them once (which, since it takes zero attention to do, I only noticed once I had a lap full of milk)

              I did use my cover when pumping @ work too, for when people walked in…but I still managed not to be using it, and have it all hanging out the only time someone DID walk in. Because, of course.

            2. Cari*

              I pumped in public and in the car all the time. Not saying that OP should – actually, the main reason I did it was because there were so many public places that didn’t have spaces for me to pump. I was an exclusive pumper, and I had to make a statement in some way that I wasn’t going to be relegated to using a bathroom just because the majority of people didn’t understand what I needed. OP has the right to stand up for her needs.

            3. ChickenSuperhero*

              I pumped on my commute, but I used the Freeme so it was completely discreet. It has a tube that snakes under your blouse, and the collection cup is breast shaped (and aeons more comfortable than the awful cones!). You look a little bustier when pumping with it, but I mean, ‘busty’ kinda defines that time already. Totally doable.

        4. BananaPants*

          +1. I breastfed two children for a cumulative total of nearly 5 years. I nursed in public MANY times – not once did I pump in front of someone. I didn’t even like my husband seeing me hooked up like a dairy cow being milked.

          1. Jill*

            Ha! “hooked up like a dairy cow.” In 4th grade we went to a dairy farm and this City kid saw how milk gets pumped (not the Heidi-esque looking girl sitting on a stool in a field, as I naiively thought). Anyways, I saw the milk pumps…then a few weeks later saw a lady using a breast pump in a restroom.

            They made the exact same noise.
            I knew then, at age 9, I would never breastfeed. Bottlefed both my boys with no regret.

            That said, I’m outraged on the OP’s behalf. They really can’t get a lock on that door? Really? I agree – this is one of the few scenarios where one would be justified airing a grievance out in the open. OP felt put on the spot, having had a co-worker possibly see her top exposed. He can squirm a little, too, while she admonishes him.

            1. ChickenSuperhero*

              I agree. I would call out, loudly, to him from several desks over – “hey Fergus you barged in on me while pumping, knowing you were doing it. What on EARTH were you thinking?! You violated my privacy – Not to mention the law – and I’m very angry about your behavior.” Let him squirm as all your co-workers look at him with judgment. Then contact HR.

      4. Agile Phalanges*

        I was completely comfortable breastfeeding in public. I was NOT comfortable pumping in public, or even in a semi-public women’s restroom. When breastfeeding, the baby covers the breast, and clothing covers the rest (no need for any kind of cover-up beyond that, in my opinion). When pumping, if you’re using an industrial-grade pump with both breasts at once, you’re basically entirely undressed. Even if you can manage to keep your nursing bra on and wear a button-down shirt unbuttoned, you’re still really exposed, and the flanges are semi-clear plastic…it’s just not the same. At all.

        I don’t know if it was the law then or not, or if I was just unaware of it, but the only place I could find to pump in our small office of large windows and no locks was in the women’s restroom for the two-company building. I tried pumping in a stall, but the cord barely reached and I had to sit on the toilet and it was awkward. So I brought a chair in to live in the sink are of the restroom semi-permanently, and used a sign on the door that said I was pumping inside and didn’t mind women coming in if THEY didn’t mind that I was pumping out in the open. I think it worked–if someone else was squicked out and able to wait 15 minutes, great. If they didn’t mind, though, they came in and saw me all hooked up like a dairy cow. I was beyond modesty by that point, so it was more about the comfort of others. Though I wouldn’t have wanted my male co-workers walking in, hence the women’s restroom rather than a less secure office.

        1. Sfigato*

          I’m a man, but I wanted to agree. Breastfeeding is how human children eat, and at most you’ll see a little boob and nipple for a second while the woman is switching sides (if you are impolite enough to stare). Pumping is a very private thing – the woman is super exposed and hooked up to a machine and in an awkward position and it’s not the kind of thing you want other people being witness to. It felt too personal for me to be in the room when my wife was doing it, and I would not want to be there while a woman who wasn’t the mother of my child was doing it. Not that it is gross or icky, but it is really personal.

      5. Janelle*

        I agree. If my girlfriend from work knew I was there and knocked and said it was her fine. But this wasn’t ok. Even if people are comfortable you don’t assume. You ask. That being said the supply room isn’t such a great option. Someone should lose and office to accommodate. Sucks for them but pumping trumps having an office.

      6. Bonky*

        Mother of a 7-week-old here: I’ve found I’m perfectly happy and comfortable breastfeeding in public, but VERY uncomfortable pumping in public (I simply wouldn’t do it). It’s much more exposed, feels much less natural, and looks quite outlandish if you’ve not seen someone do it before. Horrible invasion of privacy.

        I am in the UK, where there isn’t legislation saying a lactation room must be available. I’ve been back to the office a few times, with the baby, to deal with work stuff; a room (and suitable chair) have been made available and made private if she’s needed a feed, but it’s never been the same room twice! I do feel fortunate that maternity leave policies here mean that I won’t have to go back to work full-time while she’s still feeding. I really feel for women in jurisdictions that don’t support that; I know I will feel terrible putting her in daycare when she’s a year old, and simply can’t imagine having to do it now.

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          Yeah, I think we don’t have laws over breast-feeding rooms because we have maternity leave as standard for non-temp employment. I really hope it’s 100% your choice to be going into the office, because if it’s not, that’s NOT ok, and against the law to be pressured.

      7. Pinkie Pie Chart*

        Comfortable breastfeeding in public is not the same as pumping or expressing in public. I would have been horribly embarrassed to be walked in on while pumping, where nursing wouldn’t have phased me in the slightest.

    2. ChelseaNH*

      Assuming that this was, if not a life-or-death situation, a $1 million dollar loss if the printout was not retrieved IMMEDIATELY — what ever happened to knocking?

      1. Your Weird Uncle*

        I’m getting the feeling he knew he wouldn’t be let in if he asked permission by knocking, so he figured he’d go ahead and do it anyway since whatever it was he was getting was clearly more than OP’s privacy.

          1. seejay*

            I had an ex that lived by that motto. It’s quite common in a lot of professional circles. He used to use that on me for certain things in our relationship.

            That’s not the only reason why he’s an ex, but it was one of the factors that contributed to it. I think it’s a really crappy way to do anything and I lose a lot of respect for anyone who conducts anything in their life that way.

            1. irkedTiresias*

              Gentle reminder: that phrase is something that’s useful when you can’t get away from an abuser.
              Think of Cinderella at the ball. If you know there is no possible way to get the thing that you want without incurring your abuser’s wrath, and asking permission will just make them angry BEFORE the fact instead of after… yeah, it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.
              Seems like your ex was just using it as a way to excuse boundary-crossing, and that’s a shitty thing to do. But people have good reasons to use it and to act that way, sometimes.

          2. Anna*

            That advice is bad in some scenarios, definitely including this one, but it was helpful to me just starting out in my career. I was not very assertive when I first started working and that bit of advice given to me at my first post-college job helped with taking initiative and taught me that I didn’t need to wait for someone else to confirm my every move.

      2. Lora*

        Exactly! Knock on the door and if it is really that urgent, yell through the door, “OP I am so sorry to disturb you could you grab Important Paper off the printer and shove it under the door or something? Lex Luthor is about to blow up New York if we don’t get that piece of paper to him in five seconds”.

      3. LBK*

        Or if your goal in the moment is “get in and out of the room ASAP,” you can still go find the person after, apologize and explain. The pieces here don’t add up to me feeling like Fergus saw the room was occupied, paused, weighed the options and made a judgment call. They add up to someone who’s either heinously cavalier about privacy (especially for an office!) or someone who had intent. Either one merits a serious consequence, up to and including firing.

        1. Amber T*

          Not discrediting the idea that he may be a creep, because he very well might be. But I didn’t read it like that. It sounded like he thought just running in and out what Not A Big Deal (it is), and he already “apologized” when he was in, so why need to apologize again? Note that I’m still firmly in the camp that this is a Big Deal and should NOT have happened. I’m with Alison – an unlocked common space (even if it is occasionally used for private things like changing) is not an acceptable place for pumping, and OP should push for a lock and/or someplace not common. I would also skip talking to coworker directly and go straight for my/his manager, laying it out what Fergus did was completely unacceptable and someone needs to speak with him.

          1. LBK*

            Oh, I agree that being a creep is much, much, much less likely than him just being clueless. But it’s the only other explanation I can come up with besides him being clueless.

        1. Liane*

          It wasn’t my first thought, but wouldn’t surprise me. Alas…
          (I am pretty sure there was a pre-internet version of Rule 34.)

          1. Liane*

            Forgot to add, that in this case I think it is more likely somewhere on the Pitifully Clueless > Appallingly Jerky scale.
            Either way, I think a mandatory”WTH were you thinking–don’t EVER do that again!” talk from OP’s manager (and an optional one from OP herself, if she feels comfortable) plus Lock ASAP! is the way it should be handled.

        2. P_R*

          That seems so unlikely that I’m calling Occam’s Razor on this one. Imo, it seems like he possibly knew someone was pumping in there, assumed that she wasn’t terribly exposed, knew he needed a document quickly, and just hadn’t known a breastfeeding woman who used a pump to know that that was wrong.

  2. Analytics and Insights Manager*

    The entitled behavior from her co-worker is just baffling.

    1. Jesca*

      I haven’t decided if its entitlement or if the guy is a creep. I probably wouldnt vocalize it if I were the OP, but I would probably pay closer attention to my surroundings if this guy was around me. I would not be able to help it. That was nuts what he did!!!

      1. Murphy*

        From the free details we have, it sounds to me like he just didn’t think it was a big deal (which it definitely is!)

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, I’m going with “just clueless,” but I’d make my final judgment based on my other knowledge of this person.

          1. Jesca*

            Yeah, I wouldn’t. Sorry just being honest here. If you ignored a sign that indicates do not enter and you know that the only reason that sign is ever used is when someone is going to be naked to some degree and you just barge in? It ceases being a judgenent call. I think its not irrational to assume this person needs avoided. Can you spot a sex offender by how well they behave in meeting? Sometimes one action does kind of define you as a person to someone else and rightly so. Its ok to be open minded, but dont be so open-minded that gour brains fall out – totally stole that from a Dear Abby response!!!

            1. Van Wilder*

              Totally possible but I really can’t help but think that this guy was so self-important that he decided his printouts just couldn’t wait 15 minutes.

            2. ChickenSuperhero*

              If nothing else, complaining to HR that this person barges in on protected space hoping to see half or fully naked women, in clear violation of law … actually is a really appropriate response to this guy’s action.

    2. Wanderer*

      We have a locking room dedicated for this purpose. Women have to apply for the door code and sign up on a shared calendar for a dedicated time slot. There is also a “Room In Use” sign to use.
      Despite all that I still had someone try to unlock the door during my session. I had to yell TWICE to make her stop trying to open the door, and the stress threw off my session.
      After my session was over, she was outside waiting. Apparently she wanted to collect her stash from the mini-fridge before leaving for the day and ‘didn’t think it would be a big deal.’
      I read her the riot act and reported her to the manager, who said she would have a talk with her. Some people are just inconsiderate jerks.

      1. Whats In A Name*

        Yes, I am leaning more towards clueless with co-worker since he whispered “sorry” and didn’t blatantly say he should be allowed in no matter what. I think sometimes people, like your co-worker, this if they think it’s ‘no big deal’ then why is it a big deal for the other person.

      2. Van Wilder*

        We have a system to reserve the rooms (big company). One day I was pumping around 5:45 and this woman keyed in and then, when she realized someone was in there, all but demanded to be let in to get her stash. I’m like “I’m pumping.” “Oh, uh, well, I really need it.” “Um, well I’m indisposed here, so…”
        What did she expect? That I would let a total stranger in while I’m pumping? And it was right in the middle of my session too. I ended up passing her the milk through the door opening while hiding behind the door, but I was pissed. I felt bad because I could feel her getting upset and I know first-hand how emotional this stuff gets, but there’s a reason we have reservations.

      3. Linguist Curmudgeon*

        Wow, I’ve only ever pumped in shared pumping rooms. I’d be pissed if I had to delay going home (TO MY INFANT) for 20 minutes because I was locked out of my pumping room.

        There should be camaraderie between pumpers!

        1. Julia*

          I disagree. It’s not like a gym where OP signed up knowing they only had communal changing spaces.

          1. Jules the Third*

            I disagree, because there’s a formal process in place for using the space. If someone needs to go outside that process, should recognize that other people are counting on the processes and rules to get their own stuff done. So don’t *expect* other people to not follow the rules, and don’t be upset if they do. Plan your actions so that you can follow the rules and still get your stuff done. In this situation, pump n cool in the room fridge, but reserve a time to pick up your milk and put it in a more accessible place. Ask for the fridges to be put just outside the pumping room. Wait the 20 minutes.
            (breast fed / pumped for 6mo, 1 kid; back to full-time professional office job after 6 weeks)

            1. Jules the Third*

              Of course, in areas with less formal processes, how you discover and deal with the rules changes…

            2. Julia*

              If you are saying that a pumping woman should have privacy, I think we actually agree. If not, I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying.

        2. AMPG*

          Nope – if you know you’ll need access to the room, you sign up for time. THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT. No “popping in for a second.” If I knew I absolutely had to leave work at a certain time, I’d get my stash from the fridge early (breast milk can go without refrigeration for several hours, so an extra half hour wouldn’t make any difference).

        3. JB*

          My camaraderie entails giving a fellow pumping mom some extra bags or something along those lines. I also work for a large company with scheduled pump rooms and would not be happy for the intrusion.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah, I haven’t read all the comments yet, but my first, second, third, and eighth reactions have all been “WTAF,” “Who does that!?” and “WTAF.”

      What he did is so far outside the bounds of basic decency, let alone polite society. I don’t care what his excuse was. I don’t care if someone threatened to fire him if he didn’t grab that print out. Who does something like this and thinks it’s nbd!?

      (And OP, I am so so sorry. This sounds insanely violating, and I cannot begin to imagine how you’re feeling right now.)

  3. Snarkus Aurelius*

    In your conversation with your manager, you should also add that the fact you don’t have a secure area to breastfeed will directly affect your ability to breastfeed. (If you want to get more technical, you can say that the fear and uneasiness of worrying about being walked in on will reduce your supply.)

    1. LW*

      This is so true. Right after this happened the milk STOPPED. I was lucky I was almost done.

      1. MillersSpring*

        Good god! This is a major health issue to add to your comments to your manager.

      2. motherofdragons*

        This made me have a Mrs. White moment. “…flames. Flames on the side of my face.”

        So infuriated for you, LW! So sorry this happened!

    2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      If she wants to get into that detail with her manager, she can choose to do that. But she needn’t go into details about her body; her manager just needs to know that the current situation is no longer working, and the LW is asking for her legally protected right to a pumping room free from intrusion.

      1. annbrarian*

        Yes, this so much. Details are not necessary, the room does not meet the (REASONABLE! EASY! BASIC!) law, and that needs to be rectified.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      Frankly, some people don’t care. She’s better off just talking about the law.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I sadly agree. They should care about the impact on LW’s health, but I’ve found even women are not often sympathetic unless they’ve been through this before (and sometimes not even then). Unfortunately, talking about legal requirements is sometimes more effective. Given how outrageous this situation was, I think law-talk might make a greater impression on the powers that be.

        1. BananaPants*

          Yup. Our former HR manager who forced me to pump in a bathroom next to a toilet was a woman. She decided that she knew more about what I needed and wanted than I did, despite her having full knowledge that the company was blatantly violating state law by not providing a non-bathroom location to pump. No thanks to her, we FINALLY got a mother’s room when the baby was 11 months old and I was starting to pump wean – she was against it right up until her boss told her that the company HAD to do it.

          When I returned to work after having my second baby, her daughter-in-law had recently given birth and was nursing, and HR Lady was suddenly all “Solidarity, breastfeeding mama! What new furniture would you like in the mother’s room?” It was squicky.

          1. Linguist Curmudgeon*

            Sometimes older women are our worst enemy for workplace issues – “if I didn’t have it, you don’t really need it either.” Props to the ones that don’t do this.

            1. Julia*

              Not just workplace issues. I didn’t get painkillers for my endometriosis-caused period pains because my mother lived without them (and without endometriosis, it seems.) I also didn’t receive proper medical attention for ten years because all female doctors I saw told me that period pain was something I needed to live with.

  4. TootsNYC*

    If a lock won’t come, or takes too long, I would get a really good, solidly made door stop and wedge it into the crack under the door from the inside. Just keep it in the kit with everything else.

    1. MuseumChick*

      That’s a good idea of the lock takes some time to get!

      I hate that the OP has to even think of ways to keep the door secure. Ugh.

    2. LW*

      When I’ve had to use that room in the days since this happened, I’ve been pushing a chair against the door and then sitting in it! No one has tried to enter but they would not be successful.

      1. BananaPants*

        I did that when I had to pump in the bathroom, and it had a dodgy door lock. It worked!

      2. AMPG*

        I did this occasionally, as well, before my office got a dedicated lactation room. Or since it’s the printer room, you could push a box of printer paper in front of it. I’m sorry you have to worry about it, though – that sort of thing always affected my milk production.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      Yeah, I’ve occasionally changed in my office, sans door lock. I just stand behind the door. Someone could open it, but I could slam it shut and they wouldn’t see me.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        That’s not necessarily feasible if you’re pumping, though – maybe you could move your chair in front of the door, but the outlets might not be in the right place. Also, pumping is kind of part psychological. I’m pumping these days, and I’ve noticed I definitely produce more milk when I’m able to be relaxed compared to when I’m stressed or rushed. And worrying about having to slam the door again would definitely be stressful.

    4. Lady Russell's Turban*

      Get the kind of doorstop that has a blaring alarm when someone tries to push against it! Though that might startle the pumper more than the intruder! You could also just put a hook and eye on the door. Cheap and easy to install. It won’t keep out a very determined intruder but it will keep the door from being accidentally opened.

      1. irritable vowel*

        Your second suggestion is great – it’s much less expensive to add a hook and eye or sliding post-type lock like what would be on a bathroom or changing room door than to get a locksmith in to add a key core. Plus you wouldn’t have to worry about needing to keep track of keys.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yes, those are also good because then you don’t have to worry about accidentally locking it with no one in the room!

      2. Steph*

        I know that kind of lock wouldn’t be permitted in my workplace due to the “occupational health and safety risk” (what if OP spilled her milk, slipped on it, fell and banged her head and fell unconscious just as the building caught fire and no one could get in to rescue her???)

        1. irritable vowel*

          Well, okay – then maybe replace the doorknob with the kind that has a button on the inside for locking and has a hole on the outside so the lock can be released by inserting a nail or something if needed. Still probably cheaper than getting a keyed lock, if the company balks at the expense, and easier to manage logistically.

        2. ChickenSuperhero*

          So this company complies with labor laws for men but not labor laws for women? Hmm, seems like an even more serious and pervasive problem.

    5. Liz Lemon 2*

      I had a rubber door stop in my pumping bag, just in case. It was inexpensive and made me feel better about knowing I would have some privacy if I had to pump somewhere besides my normal room at work. Great idea!

    6. nonegiven*

      I was thinking about moving a table next to the door if there is an outlet close enough, then blocking the door with your chair.

      I also remember when I was a kid, my mom’s poor man’s deadbolt. A case knife wedged into the doorway trim.

  5. AnotherAlison*

    Using the print/copy room also doesn’t work for everyone else. There’s no excusing your coworker for barging in on you, but if there is not another printer option available, that would be annoying. They have no notice that you’re going to be in there, and printing could be time sensitive for a meeting or whatever.

    They need to provide you with what is required!

    1. Yorick*

      Yes, providing a better solution (not the copy room) would be better for OP and OP’s coworkers

      1. snuck*

        Thankyou folks for reason!

        I agree!

        I pumped for my first child… and fed my second direct from the tap. I know how intrusive pumping is… and how long it takes (it can be quite a while!). It’s a lot longer than it takes to change out of some gym sweats and into a quick office outfit. It’s also got a longer stretch of public nudity and weirdity to it.

        If this is the main or only reasonable or the primary printer room… it’s time the company ponied up a quieter/less important space or a bench for the printer to sit on outside.

    2. Aurion*

      I feel like if there are enough time-sensitive documents the printer room would’ve never been doubled as a privacy room in the first place. Since people seem to have been using it as a change room for a while, I doubt there are things that time sensitive there.

        1. Newby*

          If that’ s not possible, they should get a second printer or move the printer to another location.

      1. paul*

        Changing is usually a lot quicker than pumping though; my wife would usually be tied up for 20-30 minutes while pumping.

        I mean, it’s a really crappy situation all around to have your print room be the pumping room. Ew.

        1. Hunger Games Summer*

          Ok I agree that it is a crappy situation because it ties up a potentially needed shared resource – but pumping isn’t an ew activity and it shouldn’t be thought of as such.

          1. paul*

            Oh for pete’s sake, I’m not saying that pumping is ew, and I’m not sure how you got that from my comment. I’m saying the situation is ew.

            1. Zillah*

              That’s actually how your comment initially came across to me, too, though I can see with your clarification that it’s not how you meant it.

              1. Hunger Games Summer*

                Yeah I read you first comment as ew I can’t believe someone is going to pump near my papers from the printer. I agree the whole situation is just yuck.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I read it the same way as you, Fleeb—that a copy room is not particularly sanitary.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                Me, too. But I’m glad it’s been clarified since several people read it a different way.

              2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                Me too. “Ew, I have to pump near this printer spewing toxic ink smell.”

                1. paul*

                  Ew, not really secure.

                  Ew, tying up a printer room.

                  Ew, having to pump in a printer room

                  It’s a lousy solution for pretty much everyone.

            2. Student*

              Pumping IS gross. That’s the whole point of the law requiring that we provide women with a private, non-bathroom area to pump in.

              Random nudity of any type is generally both ugly/unpleasant and impractical; we’ve all agreed to this to the extent that we’ve made most public places a clothing-required or clothing-very-strongly-expected convention.

              What we need to do is not shame women about doing something necessary and important. They don’t need the kid-gloves treatment of faux “Ohh, that’s soooo beautiful and natural and wonderful and uplifting!” It’s sucking a bodily fluid into a container for an infant to eat later. The person doing it doesn’t want to be seen at it! The general public doesn’t want to see it. It’s an unpleasant but important part of having a child that we should be kind, respectful, and accommodating of. It’s more akin to the changing-diapers, or cleaning up vomit, or wiping food off the face of a baby, or even to he act of childbirth itself. We can admit it is gross and that’s why we generally opt to hide it, just like giving birth or changing diapers, while still recognizing it is valuable.

              Women don’t have to be beautiful all the time, and ugly things women do can be important – don’t conflate the two.

              1. MerciMe*

                So, I hated pumping. But this is definitely a personal perspective – I didn’t (And don’t) think it’s gross, just awkward, necessary and unenjoyable. Preferring not to share my nude body with my colleagues is about respecting my boundaries and safety – I don’t feel like it needs to go any further than that to be valid. I object to being treated as an object of disgust far more than I object to people awkwardly oversupporting me.

                1. Hurricane Wakeen*

                  Agreed. I think “gross” is going too far, and feeds into people acting like breastmilk is gross. Pumping is awkward and makes me feel vulnerable, but it’s not gross.

              2. Cari*

                Agreed on the not shaming women. But I definitely think it is a personal perspective. As an EPer, I grew to like pumping and didn’t consider it gross at all.

              3. Managed Chaos*

                Pumping milk for a baby to eat is comparable to cleaning vomit or changing poop? No, not at all.

                Pumping isn’t gross. Breastmilk isn’t gross. This is a ridiculous overstatement.

      2. Lily in NYC*

        Do we know there’s only one printer room? My office has 5 copy areas on each floor.

      3. Elizabeth H.*

        Even if I don’t have time-sensitive documents in the sense of “unless I have these documents we may lose our biggest contract” type thing, it is still really annoying to need to print something quickly before a meeting and not be able to access the printer. It was wrong that the coworker went in to grab the documents off the printer but I sympathize with the desire to do so. I’m not blaming the LW in the least, I just think the company needs to have the printer accessible at all times and a free from intrusion space accessible upon request.

    3. LNZ*

      Also the air is probably not that great in there, every time something prints toner is going to get released into the air and its really not good to be breathing that stuff in

    4. RJBP*

      Yes, this is where I fall too. Sure, he shouldn’t have entered past the sign. But the company should really be providing the OP with a private spot that doesn’t interfere with standard business operations.

      Because of HIPAA concerns, we’re told to “print and sprint” to retrieve anything that contains protected health information. While this doesn’t trump the OP’s right to privacy, I can see myself feeling really antsy about needing to retrieve a sensitive document that I printed when I didn’t know the room was occupied and when I don’t know when it will be vacated again.

    5. TootsNYC*

      good point–what this does indicate is that making the printer room off-limits for that long is not working for other people, and another solution needs to be found.

    6. OhBehave*

      I think he knew full well who was in the room. He figured he could duck in and out without a problem. Wrong!

      Pumping can take from 10-20 minutes depending upon the pump and if it’s a double. I didn’t pump but I know many that have and still do. That means this room is off limits for that period of time. If I have to be in a meeting in 10 minutes, waiting for the printer might not be an option.

      They need to find a better, more secure place for pumping. This would not be the bathroom!

      I would think OP is pumping at the same time(s) every day. If this is the case, then a schedule needs to be posted. “This room is off limits from 11:00-11:25 am.” in addition to the DND sign. No need to say who is using the room. If you are using the printer room once in a blue moon, then there’s no need for a schedule. However, you may want to make this the regular room. It will make people get used to the new plan. It will also help establish a norm for those moms who come after you. I wonder if it’s possible to make that room more private by partitioning off the printers and making a small room for pumping/changing.

      It sounds like OP has a very supportive boss. Sometimes that’s half the battle. I really hope this was a one and done.

      1. Kyrielle*

        It can take more – for me it was always a 15-minute session (what was recommended to me), but I knew some women with supply issues who pumped for 20-30 at a go, which meant their sessions would be 5-10 minutes longer than that for set up and tear down.

        But the OP isn’t using the printer room every time – it’s the backup, when the manager’s office isn’t available (presumably because the manager is in the middle of something and can’t just walk away). That would make posting the schedule pretty hard.

  6. LW*

    Thank you for publishing my question!! I appreciate it so much.

    I absolutely agree that something should be said to my coworker, but the snag there is that I’m not sure who it was. All I was able to determine, as I was spinning around, boobs akimbo, is that it was a man wearing a white shirt. There were two men that day wearing white shirts, and they both are of similar stature and hair color/style. Since I don’t know for sure who it was, I feel like there’s not much I can do on that front. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    1. MuseumChick*

      I would still report this to your manager with all these details.

      As someone who hates asking for things for fear of being seen as “demanding” or “troublesome” please please please ask for the lock and be firm that until there is a lock another solution needs to be found.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If there are only two possibilities, I think you and/or your boss could approach both of them. Just start with “hey, was that you who walked in while I was using the supply room yesterday?”

      1. 2 Cents*

        Add me to the “It’s not out of line to ask for an explanation of why your coworker felt this was OK when it SO wasn’t” bandwagon (which is now a band stationwagon). If both deny it, then your office will know there’s a bigger issue of truthfulness. But seriously, if I saw a sign that said “do not enter” on a normally open room, I’d ask someone first before barging in like a bull(y).

        1. Liane*

          “But seriously, if I saw a sign that said “do not enter” on a normally open room, I’d ask someone first before barging in like a bull(y).”
          I bet this guy also barges into public restrooms/stalls that are blocked off, locked up, taped up, & papered over with ” Out Of Order” signs. Which happened every time we had a stall or full restroom not working when I was at (in)Famous Retailer.

          @ LW: please still talk to your manager or the 2 men like Alison says. And I like “boobs akimbo” too.

          1. Myrin*

            For real.

            Our local railway company has special signs to put on a train door when it doesn’t work – these signs are bright yellow, reasonably big, provide information in four languages, have a little picture with a crossed-out door in it, and are placed on both sliding parts of the door at such a height that really anyone, no matter how tall or small, can have a good look at them.

            And yet every. single. time. a door is out of order I see AT LEAST one person pushing the button of the door and pushing and pushing and getting annoyed that it doesn’t open and continue pushing and sometimes there’ll even be a whole queue of people behind them.

            I have literally no idea how that can happen (I mean, I know that I am particularly observant but I really don’t think one needs to be a veritable Hercule Poirot to figure this situation out) but it happens at least every other week where I see it. Which is why my first thought was and I can totally buy that Fergus really didn’t see the sign – like with my train people, I don’t understand on any level how that works, but it’s definitely something I observe time and time again. (Which ignores the separate fact that he behaved strangely and downright inappropriately in about eight million other ways here.)

            1. MsMaryMary*

              A few months ago the driveway we usually use to get to one of my clients’ parking lot was blocked off with large, construction-zone CLOSED signs. Most of my team continued on and got to the building the back way. My boss was 5 minutes late because he drove around the CLOSED sign and had to painstakingly back down the driveway because the drive was, indeed, closed and being repaved. “I didn’t think it was really closed,” he said.

            2. Nottingham*

              I know this one! Look up “inattentional blindness” and you’ll find out that when the human brain is really focused on one task it can ignore all kinds of enormous, neon-strobing ‘background details’.

              I really like the researchers’ video where they ask students to count the number of times a ball gets tossed between a group of people – and then a man in a gorilla suit walks through. All the people focused on the ball-counting task completely miss the guy in the gorilla suit – every time!

              It also explains insurance claims like, “on my way home, I accidentally turned into the wrong drive, and drove into a tree my driveway doesn’t have”

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yeah, at the least tell your boss that it was one of the two of them.

    3. Annie Moose*

      “Boobs akimbo” is a fantastic turn of phrase, and I thank you for using it.

      1. LBK*

        Agreed – that got much-needed laugh out of me since my face has been locked in a O_____O expression since reading the letter.

    4. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

      It may be too long after the fact now, but does the printer used have a print log (the big printers at both of my most recent companies had this very easily and obviously acessible on the home screen)? You might be able to figure it out that way if you remember the approx. time.

      I’m not saying you should have to go full-on detective with this, but it’s something that would take me a couple of min to check. YMMV, but I’d very much want to know who this was, for the very least to keep an eye on them for any other creepy behavior.

        1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          Good luck! I find the print log SUPER useful, though I’ve only used it for much more mundane things than this situation.

          1. Your Weird Uncle*

            I know! It’s like we’re following LW on a private detective journey through her office. :)

          2. LW*

            Unfortunately it doesn’t show the user that printed each job. :( From the title of the document, however, it was more likely to be one guy over the other.

            1. Emi.*

              And if you don’t feel comfortable with the “Was it you?” routine, your manager can do it. Yeesh. I’m so sorry!

            2. HumbleOnion*

              Do you have an IT team? They would likely have access to more in-depth network logs & could give you a more definitive answer. But if I were your boss, the circumstantial evidence would be enough.

            3. OhBehave*

              Can your supervisor send a blanket email restating that this is why DND is on the door? If you don’t want to approach the white-shirts, this may be a great way to remind all.

              1. ChickenSuperhero*

                I think this guy needs to be as publicly humiliated as the half naked woman he deliberately barged in on. Just awful.

    5. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Please send an update! I feel super invested in what happens because I’m a fellow pumping mom.

    6. AMPG*

      Honestly, I know that the office-wide announcement to target one bad actor is generally just a way to avoid conflict and isn’t very useful, but it might be worthwhile here, if only to reinforce company norms and expectations.

  7. Fictional Butt*

    I’m imagining a hilarious Seinfeld-esque scenario in which Fergus printed off his erotic fanfiction masterpiece and sprinted to the printer to grab it before anyone saw it.

    Really, though… that is very Not Cool.

  8. MegaMoose, Esq*

    I am generally reluctant to draw definitive conclusions about unclear situations, but between the sign and grabbing the printing and the muttered apology, I think this was almost certainly done on purpose and someone needs to talk to this guy about how Not Cool this was.

  9. SarahKay*

    OP, I would say definitely ask your manager for a lock on the door – even just one of those little latches on the inside would be a start. In the really immediate term, can you buy a door wedge and use that to ensure your privacy? One of the very basic rubber ones should only be three or four dollars. I’d say your office should buy it, but then they might think that will cover it, and not fit a lock.
    As for your co-worker – words fail me. He was so far out of line it’s unbelievable. You have my total sympathy, and I think Alison’s wording is great if you feel comfortable with approaching him direct.

    1. jm*

      Yes, a hook-and-eye latch can be installed in minutes and will allow the door to be locked from the inside, with no need to replace the door handle.

      1. TootsNYC*

        no office that I’ve been in has been constructed so that it would be easy to install such a latch. The doors were metal, the door frames were metal, and the company would be pretty pissed off if I just walked in and drilled a hole.

  10. js*

    100%, ask for locks. i’m in the middle of this right now and i totally know how you feel. we’re in a vulnerable position, exposed as well as tied to machinery where we can’t really move with any quickness, and the worry that someone will walk in knowlingly would definitely make me very anxious.

    1. ArtsAdmin4Life*

      Agreed, and/or ask for another room where there are locks installed. Clearly this set-up is not working for everyone. I seriously can’t imagine how stressed I would have been while pumping if my office did not have locks on it, or if I didn’t have an office at all. Moms gotta self-advocate!

    2. Justme*

      No, OP shouldn’t ask for locks. This is way past the point of asking. OP should demand locks.

    3. Anne*

      Yes! I’m pumping right now in our privacy room where there is a deadbolt with no keyhole on the outside. Having that deadbolt definitely gives me peace of mind that no one can walk in (and that I remembered to lock the door).

      1. Witty Nickname*

        My company had deadbolt locks that show when the room is occupied on the outside. We have enough people and floors in our building to justify several pumping rooms, and they all had those locks (the rooms could also be used for people to sit in when they needed some quiet or didn’t feel well, so it was nice for them to be able to lock the door too. There were enough rooms that it was never an issue; I didn’t pump on a schedule, so I’d just go to a room, and if it was occupied, I’d go to the next one).

        Those locks seemed to work – I only had someone try to open the door on me once in the several months I pumped at work.

  11. JacqOfAllTrades*

    Yeah, this sounds like he determined that getting his papers off the printer was a higher priority than whatever was demanding privacy in the printer room, and already was apologizing as he was doing the thing that required an apology which makes it…not so much an apology, really. So sorry you had to deal with that. I think the advice is spot on – your employer sounds like they are trying really hard to be accommodating without inconveniencing themselves, and when they find that their efforts have not been adequate I hope they will step up with some real accommodations. It’s generous of you to accept a copy room where printers spontaneously come to life and you know your coworkers are tapping their toes for you to come out as an acceptable place to, presumably, be relaxed and comfortable enough to express milk – I would be much too stressed in that environment. A lock isn’t too much to ask.

  12. AthenaC*


    My philosophy, up until this point, has been that seeing me pumping would be its own punishment. You seem to have found the one person that wouldn’t be deterred by that.

    1. Hrovitnir*

      Heh, I wouldn’t be bothered at all by that – however, I would never intrude like that because I understand how awful it could be!

    2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      Yeah, I’ve never been particularly bothered by strangers’ nudity or partial nudity (ask me about my mom’s naked unconscious male roommate sometime – or don’t, because it’s OT and sad…). But just because I don’t care about seeing it doesn’t mean I don’t respect others’ wish not to be seen.

      1. AthenaC*

        I assumed it would be an unpleasant sight not just because of the nudity but because of the … err … mechanics of pumping. I assure you, it’s certainly not a pleasant sensation either!

        1. aebhel*

          Heh, yeah. I’m not shy about nudity, but pumping was a whole different ball game.

        2. Hrovitnir*

          Probably too late for you to see this, but with someone who was comfortable with it I’d be really curious. I’m interested in how most things work, though I can see how it would look freaking bizarre. And apparently it can be really uncomfortable? :(

          My grandparents were dairy farmers, so I’ve seen milking with bloody great machines, but that’s a whole different ballgame. :D

          1. Hrovitnir*

            Aaaand I’ve just read above and it sounds like some pumping machines are basically tiny versions of bovine ones?? Woah. My mother used a manual thingime with my siblings.

            1. Kyrielle*

              The electric dual-side pumps are pretty close. (Singles are too, and take twice as long, presumably.) Hard plastic cones over your breasts with the nipples in the middle, slotted into flanges which are then screwed into bottles and redirect the milk downward. Turn on the pump and it starts pulling the breasts and nipples, which depending on the woman and the pump may pull the nipples into the pump tube a bit (very, um, noticeable and hard to ignore visually, or maybe it just feels that way if you’re the one attached to it).

              1. AthenaC*

                Yup – you very colorfully captured what pumping is like. (And now I’m having flashbacks – yikes!) As compared to a baby, a pump is much less precise, more blunt, with more force. Even just on the lowest setting, which has always been more than sufficiently painful for me. I can’t imagine ever turning up the power beyond the minimum.

    3. hbc*

      Seriously. I had someone walk into my office in that situation (lock failed to latch properly, my bad, but my door was literally never closed for anything else), and the look of horror on his face when he realized what was happening was so satisfying. I was in the habit of covering up with a large nursing cover so I wasn’t really exposed, but just the tubes and -chunka-chunka- of the motor was enough for him to learn the value of knocking on a closed door Permanently.

    4. Whats In A Name*

      I met someone like you once!

      I took a day-long training once about 45 minutes from home and the trainer (also a new mom) had flown in for the day but needed a ride back to the airport. Because the airport was near me and I was the only one who lived in that direction I took her. She pumped almost the entire way to the airport sitting topless in my front seat. I don’t even remember her first name.

    5. Sfigato*

      I had a coworker who pumped, and that was her warning – if you see the door closed, i’m pumping, and believe me you do NOT want to see that.

      Shout out to all the women who pumped/pump. That is a pretty amazing commitment to have to your child. It looks super unfun and is a total hassle.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        It looks super unfun and is a total hassle.

        YES. I’m a teacher and new mom and cannot wait for the summer vacation so I can stop pumping. It’s a pain to find time in my workday (at regularly spaced intervals), it’s a pain to sit huddled in my classroom hoping the first grader knocking on my door will go away (it’s locked and the window has a blind but sometimes the kids try to peek around it to see if anyone’s there), it’s a pain to deal with the pump parts (I boil them each weekend to sterilize them), it’s a pain to remember to bring the little bottles back and forth, it’s a pain to wear this stupid pumping bra, and it’s just not a very pleasant sensation. Breastfeeding itself is lovely because I get to cuddle with my cute baby. There is nothing cute or cuddly about the pump.

        1. LW*

          Yes yes yes. I do not like it at all. I think that’s why this situation is so extra frustrating–it’s not like I *want* to be doing this. It’s not FUN for me. I’m not sitting in there having a great time. Most likely I’m in there, grimacing down at my boobs, trying to force Right Boob to PLEASE start pulling its weight around here with just the power of my mind.

            1. Jules the Third*

              Amen and yes. I’m not particularly modest, but the cow similarity, and the discomfort were why I stopped at 6mo, with a sigh of much relief. Didn’t help that I never produced well, despite all the herbal supplements and extra pumping turns the lactation specialists recommended.

            2. AMPG*

              HA – I know exactly what you mean, but have never heard that expression.

              And yes, the day I stopped pumping for good was THE GREATEST EVER.

        2. AthenaC*

          Going along with that, I once had a coworker visit us while she was on her maternity leave. She brought her baby and nursed her while we were chatting. Not awkward at all! Quite lovely to see and remember how it felt to nurse my own babies. So. SO. different than pumping.

        3. Cari*

          It was a pain, but I didn’t mind it! I couldn’t breastfeed, so it was nice to be able to do something for my baby.

    6. BananaPants*

      No kidding. You’re basically like a human dairy cow. I’m pretty sure if my coworkers ever walked in on me, they’d never have been able to look me in the eye again.

  13. Murphy*

    Ugh. I’m about to return to work and start pumping and I’d be horrified if a coworker did this. You’re absolutely right to talk to your manager about this.

  14. Dina*

    In terms of expense, there are hook and eye locks that cost less than ten dollars and can be installed easily and (if necessary) removed and patched over when not needed anymore!

      1. KTZee*

        They may also be unallowable due to fire code. We have sliding doors on our offices at my job and per the fire marshal they absolutely, positively, cannot have any mechanism that would allow them to lock from the inside.

        1. ChickenSuperhero*

          Again – it isn’t a law vs law showdown. They have to do it. Every other company figures out how to comply with both laws.

  15. AnonaMama*

    I am fully 100% on board with Alison’s advice here. Fergus is a gross jerk who needs a talking to.

    Something else that strikes me as I read this though, is that your company is really playing for fire for not having another alternate location for pumping. The changing to work out close too, but that is much more voluntary and could happen in a bathroom if needed; pumping not so much.

    If you think about it, are they really expecting the entire office to work their use of the printer and copier around someone’s pumping schedule? I have a feeling Fergus was probably thinking, “Well, I need my document so I’ll just pop in for a second, no big deal” which while gross, is somewhat understandable when you think about the fact that the room you are using technically has equipment that needs to be accessible to all employees during work hours.

    My point is, that while I understand space may not allow, I think you have a case for asking them to figure out an alternate location for you. An empty office with a lock, a conference room you can book and lock, something else truly private for you and that also won’t mean the rest of the staff having to wait for you to finish using the room to use the equipment.

    Op I am on your side and say this as a mother who pumped and knows it can sometimes take a half hour or longer per session and I just think about the pressure to be fast on you if you know people need the printer and also the possible frustration on the staff at having to wait for you to finish pumping to use the room (Which I really think is part of what happened here) is a recipe for disaster that could easily be remedied with providing you an alternate location.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I agree. It was a 20-min session when I pumped, so making the printer off-limits to people would be a serious productivity ding.

      When I print something, I need to pick it up right away, or I’ll forget about that task. And I also need, mentally, to be able to complete a task and move completely on. So having to wait until someone was done pumping would be a big problem for me.

      I vote for insisting that they come up with some other solution.

    2. Cercis*

      Way back when I had my first baby, I was expected to use the bathroom to pump. I’m so glad things have improved. Of course, I accepted it at first as that was the only example I had (and even then, I was EXTREMELY lucky to have worked in a place where an attorney pumped – but even she was expected to pump in the bathroom, of a different company – so I had it modeled for me as an option). I got really tired of the women commenting that my pump sounded like a vibrator (it did not) and teasing me about it. Since it was battery operated (because there were no electric outlets in the bathroom) I started pumping in my car and then having my husband (a SAHD at the time) bring me the baby during lunch rather than pumping.

      It really sucked and it’s made me a huge advocate for better policies. I was lucky – I had a supportive husband and family and access to resources. Other women aren’t that lucky and I feel that it’s my responsibility to help them out.

      My workplace did figure it out when one of the women had a preemie and had to use a hospital grade pump. I was pretty jealous that they figured it out for her but wouldn’t for me, but then I got over it.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      To me this was foreseeable, it would not be that hard to foresee that someone needed something off the printer at the exact same time someone else was pumping. Then with no lock on the door, the problem is almost guarantied to happen.

      This looks like an poorly thought out and poorly designed solution. It’s definitely a management problem. It shouldn’t be left up to OP to figure out what to do.
      While a door wedge is probably not legal because you can’t open the door from the outside that easily in case of emergency, the wedge idea does give OP back some control over what is going on here, until the real lock is installed. I think I would get a wedge and begin hounding the boss for a better plan. I’d let the boss know I was using the wedge, “Because this can’t happen again.”

      This whole thing slays me because you can pick up a lock on a clearance table for around $15. Perhaps building maintenance could install it. So we are talking about spending $15 to resolve this problem.

    4. CoffeeLover*

      I wanted to say the same thing. Its not an excuse for his behaviour, but I’ve had to print stuff before big important meetings and waiting 20min to get those print outs was not an option. I’m surprised Alison only advocated a lock rather than a change of location. The printing room does not work for anyone in this situation.

  16. Stellaaaaa*

    This is about the employer not complying with the law. It’s less about a coworker needing to get necessary supplies out of the unlockable room that the employer has illegally stashed the pumping OP in. I wouldn’t blame the coworker for not being able to wait to refill an empty printer, especially if it turns out that the directive to retrieve the paper came from a higher-up. Your employer shouldn’t be throwing up their hands at the law that requires them to give you a door that locks, and you shouldn’t be giving them a pass on it. It costs a few bucks to buy a padlock and it takes five minutes to screw the hinge closure to the door. Your employer has no excuse.

    1. Dan*

      Federal law doesn’t require a door that locks. I got curious and did some googling. My main concern was whether or not a commonly used area with a sign on the door satisfies the law. It may. There’s some verbiage about “free from intrusion” that I wouldn’t think would be satisfied by this setup, but subsequent language clearly permits a sign on the door as being an acceptable alternative to a lock.

      Either way, this is a crappy setup. I don’t think the spirit of the law intended that the employer take a common space like the printer room and designate that as the space. If I were on a jury, I would not consider the printer room with a sign on the door “free from intrusion”. (I may, however, accept a conference room as that space.) For the printer room? It would have to have a lock in my opinion.

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        Hmmm, I could have sworn that I’ve seen it mentioned that the law requires a locking door. Whatevs!

        But yeah, it’s odd to me that the annoyance is placed on the coworker who understandably has his own job to do and cannot have his own timeline be held hostage by an employee who shouldn’t be in that room to begin with. An entire office can’t adjust its printing schedule around the fact that a business doesn’t feel like doing right by OP. I mean, I would have knocked on the door to ask permission, or I would have asked OP to pass the papers through the door to me, but I would not have waited for OP to finish pumping to somehow get what I came for. An accommodation cannot make it impossible for an entire office to complete their work in a timely manner.

        1. Dan*

          What surprises me is that the law is very clear that a locked bathroom is NOT sufficient to be in compliance. I’m sure there’s reasons I’m not aware of, but I can’t imagine the OP’s setup as being a better alternative.

          1. fposte*

            I think a big motivation for the law was that women were being told “just use the bathroom.”

            1. Dan*

              I don’t want to prepare my lunch in the printer room either.

              Straight question: Do you think OP’s setup is better than the bathroom? I’m not talking about the law at the moment, but is this space really better than the bathroom?

              1. Katie the Fed*

                Yes – as long as it has a lock (which is cheap and easy to install, so there’s really no excuse). And it doesn’t really matter what we think because there IS a law, and it’s clear. Just because you’d be fine with it doesn’t mean other people should be.

                1. Dan*

                  If there’s a lock on the door, I’d agree that the printer room with a lock is better. What I was really wondering was whether printer room + no lock is better than the bathroom with a lock.

                  With the law, it is clear the bathroom is unacceptable. It is not clear that the OP’s scenario is compliant. OP needs a space that is “free from intrusion” and IMHO, a common area with an unlocked door doesn’t suffice. If there is a lock, they’re probably in the clear.

              2. Emi.*

                It’s less gross, since there’s (hopefully) less in the way of airborne fecal contaminants.

              3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Neither of them are acceptable, but it will be very easy for the company to fix that by adding a lock to the printer room (or finding another space that can lock, depending on what options there are).

                It’s really not okay to tell women to pump in the bathroom! They’re producing food for babies who have virtually no immune system, for one thing. For another, the set-up may be uncomfortable and often kind of gross (although I am assuming you’re not suggesting they do it sitting on the actual toilet), and pumping often requires being relaxed.

                1. AthenaC*

                  I used to pump standing by a bathroom sink, playing Candy Crush on my phone with my other hand.

                  I didn’t last long like that, fortunately, before I was able to move into a private office. I do think I scared a few interns, though!

                2. Amber T*

                  One dude I know would refuse to bring his beer into a friend’s (freshly cleaned) bathroom… literally reached in with one arm out the door, as if the air would contaminate his beer. And yet, the following week, made a comment about “some gross woman” breastfeeding in public at the mall and “why couldn’t she just do that in the bathroom?” I was too in shock to come up with a capable retort, but he did receive a smack on the back of the head and a “are you kidding me?” from multiple friends.

                3. Elizabeth H.*

                  @Amber T – now I’m curious about what circumstances led a bunch of people to congregate in a friend’s bathroom! Maybe to admire how freshly cleaned it was?

                  I bring beer into the bathroom all the time, to drink in the shower. I feel like the shower is a clean environment suitable for beer consumption.

                4. Karyn*

                  Plus, I mean, I’m about to be a little gross here, but I have enough trouble using the bathroom for the bathroom’s intended purpose when there are other people in there; I can’t imagine trying to pump milk in a stall with this machine that makes noise and not feeling completely self-conscious if someone else comes in to use the facilities. Not that anyone SHOULD be ashamed of it, but for me, I always feel a little awkward when I think people can hear sounds coming from my stall, and I wouldn’t be able to pump there for that reason alone.

                5. Fafaflunkie*

                  But is a room with a printer running with toner that may spew fine iron filings any better? OP should really be asking for an alternate to both the printer room and a washroom, with a locking door. Doesn’t this office have a supply room she can use that would be private, safe, and not be a potentially major disruption for the rest of the office?

                6. Amber T*

                  @Elizabeth H we were at a friend’s place to hang out, and his bathroom was right off the living room. Dude-Idiot needed to grab something from the bathroom (I don’t remember what… probably a roll of paper towels or something), but didn’t want to put his beer down OR bring it in to the bathroom (bathroom air germs), so he did this gymnastic bend into the bathroom to reach while keeping his beer outside.

              4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                I don’t think Dan is suggesting that women should have to pump in the bathroom; I think he’s saying that they also shouldn’t have to pump in the printer room. I agree, although I recognize that not every office has a(nother) room with a door that can be closed and locked. It may be the best situation available, but it’s still a crappy situation.

              5. Bow Ties Are Cool*

                If I had to choose between making a sandwich in the bathroom or the printer room, I know which one I’d pick. Neither is ideal, but there’s a clear winner nonetheless.

                1. LBK*

                  Same, and I want to know what the hell people are doing in your printer room if you choose the bathroom or say they’re equal.

                2. Jessesgirl72*

                  Well, according to other OPs, some of them are having sex in either location… :D

                3. Fisherman2*

                  After having seen numerous culturing studies in office buildings….

                  I don’t know which one I’d pick.

                  I do know that in most offices toilet seats are cleaner than desks from a bacteria perspective.

                  “The researchers found that surfaces in office break rooms and frequently used desktops were the germiest”

                  “…there’s 400 more times bacteria on an office desktop than the toilet seat, the safest place from germs in the office is the toilet seat.”

              6. LW*

                It’s kind of a moot question, as I need an outlet to plug my pump in, and restroom stalls do not have outlets! Even if it was considered acceptable to pump in the bathroom, it wouldn’t work logistically.

              7. Van Wilder*

                Yeah, I’m a pumping mom and I would rather pump in the printer room (even with risk of being walked in on) than pump in the bathroom. What are the bathroom options? Either sit on the toilet (and do public toilets ever have lids? Mine don’t, so you’re putting your clothes on a toilet seat) or stand by the counter where all your coworkers walk through constantly.

              8. Gaia*

                Is it *better* than a bathroom? Yes. Because, theoretically, people do not use the bathroom in the printer room. It is, however, clearly not an appropriate solution.

              9. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                They’re both awful options, but the printer is theoretically cleaner than the bathroom. (As Emi. notes, at least you don’t have to worry about aerosolized fecal matter in the copy room… hopefully.)

                So at the margin, yes, the OP’s setup is better than the bathroom.

          2. Stellaaaaa*

            I can understand how a bathroom wouldn’t work. A single stall isn’t big enough and you don’t want to be pumping through up to 30 minutes of your coworkers doing their business next to you. Locking a whole bathroom for 30 minutes multiple times a day (if you wanted to use the “main area” of the bathroom) wouldn’t work if it means your coworkers can’t go to the bathroom. Same goes for a single-use bathroom.

            1. Xarcady*

              This is what happened at one place I worked. The ladies’ room would be locked for 30-40 minutes, two to four times a day, while one woman pumped. Not that I minded her pumping, but there were times when I’d get out of the 2 hour meeting and I really needed to go, and I could not access the bathroom for another 20-30 minutes. (And then we had two women who were too special to share the two stall landies’ room, so they’d lock the door when they went in. It got to be a bit much.)

              A year or so later, when two women I supervised were both pregnant, I looked up the state law and found out we had to provide a space that was not a bathroom. (The owner of the company was not really happy with me about that.) The three of us looked at every single room we had. Luckily, we had expanded up to the second floor of the building since the first woman was pumping. The two of them decided on our server room. It had a locking door, all the computer equipment kept the room nice and warm, and there was a computer that they could use to either work or surf the net while they pumped. We scrounged a comfortable chair from Goodwill and they were all set. Our IT guy only worked in the office two days a week, so he was seldom inconvenienced.

              Because I don’t think the 35 women in the company could have dealt with the ladies’ room being locked six times a day for pumping.

              1. Zathras*

                As an IT person my knee jerk reaction to this was “AAAAAAAAAH no food or drink in the server room!”

                Second reaction is, I’m glad you were able to make it work. I could probably even be talked into this if a space far from the servers could be arranged.

                1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

                  Women who pump are going to be really, really careful about not spilling a drop! It’s too much work to pump milk to see it go to waste!

                  (A few weeks ago I got up one morning and realized I’d forgotten to put the previous day’s pumped milk into the fridge when I got home because I was so exhausted, and since it had been out all night it had to be poured down the drain. I cried. Literally cried.)

                2. Tiger Snake*

                  Lol, I had the same immediate reaction Zathras.

                  On reflecting, I’m surprised that the noise didn’t bother any of the ladies. Or is that more an indication of how poor the other options were?

                3. Van Wilder*

                  Elizabeth the Ginger – I did the same thing about two months ago! And I cried real tears. Oh, how I cried.

                  I’ve since heard from other pumping moms that breast milk doesn’t really go bad in the 4 hours the hospital told me – it’s actually more like 24 hours and give it the sniff test.

                4. Neatby*

                  I use the server room too, and as ETG says below – every drop is precious! I put a post-it on the door (no lock) and the only issue has been whenever the post it loses its sticky.

                  Tiger Snake- the pump is loud too, so I find the drone of the server room kind of cancels it out..

                5. Zathras*

                  I totally get the motivation not to spill, but accidents still happen even to super-conscientious people. Some server rooms have raised floors of removable panels with high powered electrical connections underneath (like a drop ceiling, except it’s the floor). In that situation spilling could be dangerous and I would put my foot down. But I would also be expending some serious political capital crusading for the actual private locked space people need for this.

                  For an otherwise normal room where the company keeps some servers, OK, but let’s still put the chair over here in this nice cozy corner which just so happens to be far away from my babies…

                6. Xarcady*

                  The server room was actually fairly large–it became the server room because it had no winder, and no one wanted it for an office. And we didn’t have that many servers–it was a 45 person company.

                  The servers were all against one wall, and there was a desk on the opposite wall where they sat and pumped. Nothing bad happened to the servers.

          3. Kyrielle*

            Sanitary reasons! You’re pumping food for a baby – bathrooms are very much *not* clean spaces. You don’t do food prep in the bathroom for a reason – and this food is going to go to someone who has a not-yet-fully-developed immune system, as well.

            Yes, of course you’re pumping *from* you *into* bottles – but there are lots of supplies, and if any of them pick up and transfer germs…not good.

        2. Jessie the First (or second)*

          The annoyance is on Fergus because he knowingly barged in on a naked coworker. That’s not ok, I don’t care what your feelings are about how important your work is, they don’t trump an employees right to not have to be on display while naked. And Fergus *knew* that’s what was going on because it has been standard practice to use that room to change since before the LW needed to pump there.

          The company is failing in their duties to provide an appropriate space for pumping, but Fergus can’t take his annoyance out on the LW by walking into the only space she has been provided to pump.

          1. Poohbear McGriddles*

            I wonder if Fergus would have made the same “accidental entry” on Carl from accounting. Because no printout is worth seeing Carl in his tighty-whities.

        3. not my usual alias*

          I mean, I would have knocked on the door to ask permission, or I would have asked OP to pass the papers through the door to me, but I would not have waited for OP to finish pumping to somehow get what I came for.

          And I suspect the LW would have been fine with a knock to ask permission. It’s the unwarned barging in that was a problem.

        4. Observer*

          Sorry, none of that excuses walking in on a co-worker who you KNOW is not dressed. I agree that the company is totally in the wrong. But, the person in the WAS supposed to be there, because that’s the company’s policy. And the people who need to print stuff to this printer need accept that their work is going to be held up, because that’s the company’s policy. If they don’t like the policy, take it up with your boss, HR and whoever else has some input here.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yeah, this is where I’m at. I agree with Stellaaaa that the company is in the wrong, but the fact that they’ve created a sucky “solution” does not ever justify walking in on a coworker who’s pumping (I actually think interrupting by knocking also is not ok, but I realize that that may be an outlier opinion).

            I understand the inconvenience of waiting, the risk of forgetting to later pick up printed material, or the limited jobs where you’re instructed to dash to the printer and not allow paperwork to sit there. But, imo, none of that trumps the right of a mother who is pumping to pump unmolested.

            1. AMPG*

              Right – you’re choosing to deal with the problem by violating your co-worker’s privacy instead of expending political capital to get your office to find a better solution. That’s just shitty.

              1. ChickenSuperhero*

                Exactly. “My printout is more important than your right not to have a co-worker barge in on you half naked.” I’m feeling kinda ragey about this guy.

        5. JB (not in Houston)*

          It’s not like you have to wait all day, and there’s nothing in the letter to indicate that people aren’t able to complete their work timely. Not being able to pick up your printouts the moment you want to is not a hardship outside very, very narrow circumstances. Sometimes you have to wait a little bit for something you want and that is a very reasonable accommodation to ask for.

        6. Jerry Larry Terry Garry*

          I would have done neither- let the person in or passed anything. Unless the room is a tiny closet, she is tethered to the pump and the outlet, and grabbing the pump and shuffling around and risking things slipping- nope. It’s already hard to pump in an environment like that.

          1. aebhel*

            Exactly. It’s not like you can just get up and walk around while attached to a pump.

    2. neverjaunty*

      Sorry, but a giant Do Not Enter sigh plus not even bothering to knock means this guy is a giant assbag. AND the employer is a huge problem. It’s not either-or and it’s not necessary to extend “understanding” to an untitled jerk.

  17. Dan*

    I have a hard time “blaming” people when systems are poorly designed.

    In this case, designating a “common” area that people use throughout the day as a truly “private” area is just dumb, particularly when there is no lock installed.

    I will say that I know that if I have to print something off at the last minute, and the printer is jammed, out of ink, or out of paper, I’m pissed. As far as what Fergus was thinking? He was probably thinking he needed his print out for an important reason, he’d sneak in there, grab what he needed, and deal with the fall out later. I’m not saying his thought process was ok, but to “what was he thinking?” that’s the answer.

    1. Fictional Butt*

      Really? Would you blame someone for barging into an occupied single-stall bathroom because they really needed to pee and the “system” should have built another stall?

      1. Fictional Butt*

        To expand: it seems incredibly chauvinistic to say that this is a problem with a “system” and not with Fergus. We all have to deal with frustrating and inefficient systems at work. That doesn’t mean you can wantonly violate other people’s privacy. That document could not have been so important that it couldn’t wait until OP was done. And if it was, Fergus should have checked if the room was occupied before printing it–because that’s how the system works.

        1. Dan*

          TBH, the printer may not be conveniently located to Fergus. My printer is on the opposite side of the floor from me, and it’s easy to envision a scenario where I go and check the printer room, it’s free, and then when I go to pick up my printout, it’s occupied.

        2. Bossy boss*

          “That document could not have been so important that it couldn’t wait until OP was done.”
          You know this how? How do you know Fergus’s boss is a reasonable person, maybe he was screaming at Fergus about “I need these printouts NOW!” That is what my boss would do.

          1. Stardust*

            First, because OP says below that they don’t have documents that are important in such an urgent way at her job, and second, this really sounds awfully like you’re just trying to come up with a reason of why what Fergus did was okay–even if his situation were the same as yours, boss-wise, he could have apologized profusely, knocked beforehand, explained the situation through the closed door, explained the situation while grabbing the papers and apologized to OP afterwards, or any and all of the above. He chose to do neither of them.

          2. Fictional Butt*

            So what if Fergus’s boss was screaming at him? Two wrongs don’t make a right.

          3. AMPG*

            Then you say, “Boss, you’ll need to talk to HR about finding a different space for breastfeeding women to pump in. As things stand now, I can’t go in until the room is empty.”

      2. Anon Anon*

        There is a big difference between a bathroom stall, which is private for everyone, and a supply/printer room that doesn’t typically result in providing privacy. I’m not excusing the other person barging in, that isn’t acceptable at all. But, I do think it’s likely to happen again in that location. Either to the OP or to someone else in a similar situation.

      3. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        Eh, I get where Dan was coming from. You’re talking about sharing a private, dedicated-use space, while Dan is talking about the un-workability of taking a necessary common working space and trying to turn it into private space in addition to still being a common space. It’s just not a good idea. And besides, Dan expressly said it wasn’t ok, just that he understood the thought process.

      4. Dan*

        Every single stall bathroom I have ever seen has a door with a lock on it. It’s hard to barge in on that.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          I assume you’re not advocating for bathroom as a pumping room, right? Because the law forbids making the bathroom stall the place to pump. (You wouldn’t prepare your lunch at a toilet, so we don’t ask women to prepare their babies’ lunches on toilets either.) But yes to your point that really the way to ensure no barging in is with a lock. And locks are not complicated or expensive to install – easy solution. I don’t understand why the company has not done that.

      5. fposte*

        I think that, at least to Fergus, this is ducking in to grab the thing they left on the sink outside the stall while somebody’s in the single stall. Not ideal, but not super-invasive.

        1. Emi.*

          This sounds likely to me as well, especially since lots of people think of pumping as being equivalent to breastfeeding, privacy-wise.

          1. fposte*

            And somebody above reports on a fellow pumper doing the same thing, which surprised me (though not as much as her, I’m sure).

    2. Undine*

      It needs to be set up to be idiot-proof. I get tunnel vision sometimes when I’m working and I could (sorta) see myself doing that. Especially if the sign doesn’t really register until I open the door.

      I’ve been thinking about this lately where I work, because every conference room and office has floor to ceiling glass walls along one side. They are poorly designed acoustically as well. We have had employees who were pumping in the past (in our previous location), and I just look at at these fishbowls and think, “what were you thinking?” Like privacy is evil or something.

      Also in the news, the CEO of Uber is currently meditating — perhaps to make him less entitled? — and taking over the lactation room to do it. Just like — no…

      1. LW*

        YES, we have the same setup! Floor to ceiling glass windows. No curtains. No locks. The only rooms that don’t have windows are my manager’s office (which is why that’s my main pumping space), the supply room, and the kitchen. It’s nuts.

        1. K*

          Curtains can be cheap. Bed Bath & Beyond has them starting at $9/panel. Can you ask to have them installed in one of the offices?

          1. AnonaMama*

            Yes this! I was just going to say this. I have been sin a similar office set up as the LW stated, all glass doors etc. And pumping moms just put up paper on their glass doors to create privacy. If they won’t buy yo a lock or put curtains up in a conference room, I say get crafty with some printer paper and make yourself some window coverings in a room with a lock.

          2. LW*

            When I first came back from work this was my suggestion to my manager. We have a small conference room that is hardly ever used. I suggested we get curtains to put up in there so I could use that and not be taking up space other people actively need. When I talk to her tomorrow, I’m going to push for this again.

          3. Not So NewReader*

            My boss and I found some heavy drapes at JC Penney for $10 per panel. Sunlight doesn’t even show through, so you know there is privacy with no shadows or anything.

            1. SarahKay*

              Ah, yes, good idea – blackout curtain linings are often really cheap, and will block light. And despite the name, they’re usually white or cream, not black.

          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Another option could be those dressing screens that folks used back in the day. No installation required, easy to fold and store.

        2. Observer*

          And, to be honest, inexcusable. “This is the way we are” is not an acceptable reason or excuse. Not legally, not common sense.

          There are a multitude of ways this can be addressed, and none of them need to be hugely expensive.

          1. Student*

            Exactly. Designing a place so there’s no possible way to comply with both the law and basic human decency toward a nursing mother isn’t a defense. At best, it is thoughtlessness that shows more diverse people should’ve been in the room during office design.

          2. Fafaflunkie*

            Very much this. A doorknob that can lock from the inside costs $12 at Home Depot. Enough to tell the person wanting in “sorry, occupied right now.” I read somewhere upthread “what if the person inside bumped her head and became unconscious and no one can get in?” All you would need is to bend a metal coat hanger and stick it in that little hole in the knob.

        3. Willow*

          Or a tent! and a nice comfortable camp chair!

          Yeah, we had the floor-to-ceiling window walls for about a week in our new place, then all of a sudden they were frosted except for the very top and the very bottom.

          1. Gaia*

            Our office redesign included full glass walls for conference rooms. It only took one exec level meeting with a spreadsheet of confidential data on the 60″ screen facing a row of desks for them to frost the glass.

        4. Amy*

          We have the same and we just put up blinds in one of the empty offices and use that as the pumping room. But I know not every company has a bunch of empty offices.

      2. Observer*

        Also in the news, the CEO of Uber is currently meditating — perhaps to make him less entitled? — and taking over the lactation room to do it.

        I laughed. Is that really true? It’s just soooo pathetic.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yeah, this guy is an asshole. Although this is egregious, it’s fairly low on the list of his “greatest acts of assholery.”

          1. Observer*

            True. But it’s just so weird as well – he’s been talking about his need to change the way he treats people. Is he so stupid that he doesn’t get the irony?

            Some of his other feats go well past the stage of irony several times over.

      3. Katie the Fed*

        The CEO of Uber is a hot mess. He’s done a LOT of really, really terrible things.

      4. bridget*

        Yes to being idiot-proof. This guy could be anywhere on the spectrum of disgusting voyeur to in-a-rush clueless person. LW needs privacy from everyone on that spectrum, and something that physically stops the idiots among us (agree that on my very frazzled/distracted days, this could have been me, although I hope I would have been much more apologetic once I realized what I was doing) is necessary.

      5. Anon-alas*

        > “I get tunnel vision sometimes …” <- This x 1,000.

        I work in a business where people are known to become lost in their own thoughts. Could I put myself on 'autopilot: fetch printout' and walk the hallways lost in thought and ignore a Do Not Enter sign, grab my job off of the printer and then register OP's presence and think "it's OP, hey … errr … ooops!" I've never walked in on anyone pumping milk, but I know for a fact that I'm not the only person who could (and has) unwittingly executed a similar gaffe.

        Sure, maybe the guy is some kind of weird pervert. But to me, the Least Hypothesis is that he's an IT guy who got a little bit too involved in fixing a bug.

      6. TootsNYC*

        “Also in the news, the CEO of Uber is currently meditating — perhaps to make him less entitled? — and taking over the lactation room to do it. Just like — no…”

        yeah, no.

        I had depression once and my CBT involved a meditation exercise 12 times a day–every 90 minutes! It was short, but I really needed privacy to do it. And I couldn’t be walking all across the floor to do it. Everything was open-plan with glass walls for -every- office. I couldn’t come up with anywhere that I could have gone except the lactation room.
        So I didn’t do those exercises anywhere near the number of times I needed to.

    3. Temperance*

      Except it’s a common practice in that office to use the space for private purposes, so he had knowledge that someone might have been changing. What a rude, jerky thing to do. He could have knocked on the door and given her 30 seconds to cover up.

      1. Dan*

        I think the first issue is whether or not that space complies with the law. I do agree with you that he should have knocked — he doesn’t get a free pass. But my larger issue is that when the system is set up for failure, placing the fallout of the failure on the regular staff is sort of missing the point.

        1. LBK*

          I said something similar to this below, but I don’t think this is a situation where “it’s a bad system” is a strong defense for the employee’s behavior. It’s just so egregious – we’re not talking about skipping a couple QC steps that leads to an error not being caught. We’re talking about deciding to enter a place that is only ever marked as occupied when there’s someone half-naked in it. That’s not a corner you cut unless someone’s physical health is at risk, and I really doubt whatever he was grabbing off the printer was that critical.

          Really, it’s a weak excuse because I don’t buy it as a thought process for choosing to take that action. If he really thought “Well, it’s not my fault they don’t have a better setup, so I’m just going to go in anyway,” then that’s a serious issue.

          1. aebhel*

            It’s a bad system and Fergus was a jerk! It doesn’t have to be one or the other!

        2. Kyrielle*

          But the correct response of the inconvenienced staff is not to barge in. It’s to put the inconvenience back on the company. “I’m sorry, I’m going to be late with the teapot glaze report, because I can’t retrieve the print proofs until the printer room is available again. Someone is using it for a privacy room, per policy.”

          The issue belongs to *both* the crappy setup and lazy company, *and* Fergus, who was out of line. I would not be averse to seeing Fergus fired for this, it’s that out of line.

          1. LBK*

            Right – I can’t imagine being in this situation and thinking my solution in the moment would be to just go in anyway. It’s spectacularly bad judgment, no matter how inefficient the company’s solution to those problem might be.

    4. LBK*

      I think it’s one thing if you’re just cutting corners on some kind of policy or procedure for the sake of efficiency. It doesn’t apply when your workaround for a bad system involves intruding on a half-naked coworker’s privacy; I just can’t get on board with the idea that any system is so terrible that it justifies that kind of violation.

      This is almost the reverse of the letter where the OP’s coworkers were changing in front of him rather than going to the bathroom or another private area for no apparent reason. There are some lines you just can’t cross when you’re trying to take a shortcut and partial nudity around coworkers is one of them, IMO.

      1. Mike C.*

        This is actually a common approach to long term process improvement. Dan is looking to find the root cause of this issue, not excuse the coworker.

        What the coworker did was crude and selfish and creepy and gross and everything else that folks have said. But the fact is, it’s still only a symptom of a much greater issue. Pointing that out doesn’t excuse or justify anyone.

        1. LBK*

          I do a lot of process improvement as well, but when there’s naked people involved, I disagree that traditional process improvement thinking applies.

          1. Amber T*

            I’m getting what Dan and Mike C. are saying. I don’t think either of them are excusing Fergus’s behavior. But management has a talk with Fergus, he gets in trouble, he apologizes, he gets fired… whatever the consequences are. Then what? OP is still left in a common space without a lock, which means there’s a chance it Wakeen could accidentally or not accidentally walk in on OP, or the next woman who needs to pump. They’re saying the current system is unacceptable, which doesn’t mean Fergus’s behavior is acceptable. The system is unacceptable, Fergus is unacceptable, both statements are true. Dan is just focusing on the first one.

            1. LBK*

              I just can’t get on board with that being the focus of the comments. This goes way beyond discussing workplace systems, it’s about common sense and culturally accepted privacy boundaries.

              1. Observer*

                I agree with you. On the other hand, as a practical matter, it’s going to be easier to get a lock on the door than to get the company to make everyone behave.

        2. Observer*

          Well, then he’s pointed to the wrong “root cause:. The real “root cause” of this behavior is that the person who walked in either does not know how to behave or does not care to. The company’s misbehavior is not the cause of it – it is only an opportunity for this bigger problem to show itself.

          1. LBK*

            Yes, this is exactly what was bugging me – I think “it’s a bad system, so Fergus can’t be shouldered with all the blame” has the problem backwards. “Fergus saw no problem abusing a system that enabled him to behave inappropriately” feels like a more accurate framing. Falling through the cracks of an ineffective system and intentionally taking advantage of a loophole aren’t equivalent; if the only thing preventing Fergus from barging in on undressed coworkers is a lock and not any kind of internal gauge of decency that would tell him this is inappropriate, that’s still a problem.

            1. Mike C.*

              It’s more like, “It’s a bad system, so in addition to blaming Fergus for being a creep, management takes on additional responsibility for allowing this to happen in the first place”.

              1. AthenaC*

                “It’s more like, “It’s a bad system, so in addition to blaming Fergus for being a creep, management takes on additional responsibility for allowing this to happen in the first place”.”


    5. Katie the Fed*

      I really can’t help but think he knew it was LW in there – otherwise he’d be walking in on people changing. He knew – he just didn’t care (or he wanted to go in – eww).

      This is so messed up. The manager owes her a major apology and needs to discipline Printerman and fix the door, NOW.

      1. Dan*

        My take is he didn’t care.

        Your last sentence is kinda where I’m at — you’ve acknowledged the manager has something to apologize for and the door needs to be fixed. Printerman doesn’t get a pass, but he also doesn’t get all of the blame.

        1. fposte*

          It also sounds like there’s a lack of office communication about policy with this room, which is vital if they’re using it for office functions as well as personal stuff.

      2. Contrarian Annie*

        Perhaps he has walked in on people changing in the past and they accepted it because they know their use of that room for that purpose is only “semi-legit” and their co-workers still need to be able to use the copying equipment?!

          1. Contrarian Annie*

            True, I just meant as a possible explanation of why it seems “normal” to the co-worker.

    6. not my usual alias*

      I have a hard time “blaming” people when systems are poorly designed.

      The system allowed for Fergus to knock on the door and say “is it okay if I pick up a printout?” He’s the one who chose not to do that.

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        The system also allowed Fergus to open an unlocked door and retrieve something he needed in order to fulfill his essential job duties.

          1. Stellaaaaa*

            We don’t know either way. I don’t think it helps solve the problem to act like people don’t need the things that they’ve been printing out. What if they really were important. Come on now!

            1. Katie the Fed*

              You’re speculating on things that aren’t in the letter. There is nothing to suggest this was a crisis or emergency.

              1. Stellaaaaa*

                I don’t assume that people print things they don’t need. I don’t think it’s out of line or going off into left field to presume that Fergus needed the papers he printed out. There’s nothing in my entire history of working to suggest that people wouldn’t go and get their papers from the printer.

                1. LBK*

                  But I think it is out of line to presume that the document was SO incredibly and important that it merited barging in on someone he knew would be partially unclothed. Sorry, if you think anything you do is that critical and you’re not, like, a heart surgeon, you are wrong.

                2. WellRed*

                  I print plenty of stuff zi need but certainly can work around if i cant get it right that second. Most of us are not saving lives or brokering world peace in our little jobs.

                3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I don’t understand the assumption that the printouts were needed right there and then. We can of course come up with all types of scenarios that would *feel* urgent to Fergus, but there are very few professions I can think of where your printing really cannot wait to be picked up for 20-30 minutes. And even in jobs where it’s urgent, a lot of the time you can work around it by better planning.

                  I don’t think there’s any level of urgency that justifies barging in on someone this way. At a minimum, he should have knocked. That’s a pretty low-time-consumption and low-risk way to try to work around lack of immediate printer access.

              2. Yorick*

                That doesn’t make sense. You’re also speculating that the printouts WEREN’T important.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  No, that’s not the case. The issue is not whether they’re important but rather whether it’s time sensitive to pick them up by barging in on a semi-naked coworker when you know that they’re in a semi-naked and vulnerable position.

                  There are very few printouts in the world, or jobs in the world, that treat picking up your printing with urgency that justifies Fergus’ conduct.

            2. LBK*

              Just by common sense, the average person is not going to be printing out something so time-sensitive that they can’t wait a few minutes before entering the designated naked person room. I think it’s much more wild speculation to think there’s no possible way he could’ve waited than to think he could’ve, especially given that the OP presumably doesn’t work for the NSA or something.

              1. Emi.*

                Anyway, I bet the NSA printers don’t release jobs automatically. You probably need, like, three-factor authentication and a ritual sacrifice.

                1. Poohbear McGriddles*

                  Used to just be chickens they’d accept, but to be more PC a tofurkey may now be “sacrificed”. Thanks, Obama!

                2. Angel*

                  I think we’re out of nesting; this is for Emi.: Okay I laughed out loud. Thanks for that.

                3. BF50*

                  This is amusing since tracking a print job is how woman from NSA was recently arrested for leaking documents. Off topic, I know.

                  But I was also thinking if LW worked for the NSA she could absolutely figure out who printed.

                4. Observer*

                  And there would also be no way in heaven she’d be sitting in a room unsupervised with a printer that prints sensitive documents.

            3. neverjaunty*

              If they really were important he could have damm well knocked.

              What if LW had been changing out of gym clothes and was in her underwear? Would you be sticking up for him then, or is this really about the fact that LW was pumping at work?

        1. LBK*

          Essential job duties? According to whom? The OP doesn’t even know who the offender was, never mind what the document was. Let’s not make up facts.

          1. Stellaaaaa*

            People print things out as part of their jobs. They need to retrieve them. Sometimes they can’t wait. Fergus clearly couldn’t wait. If you don’t want to assume that the documents were important, I’m not willing to believe that he was being malicious or that he could have waited through an entire pumping session.

            1. MuseumChick*

              We don’t know if Fergus couldn’t wait. We don’t know what he printed. What we do know is:

              1) It is understood throughout the company that this particular room is used for changing clothing on a fairly regular basis and as a backup lactation room.

              2) There was a sign on the door stating clearly not to enter, as is the custom at this company when someone is in a state of undress in the room.

              3) Fergus did not knock, simply enter the room knowing the above two factors.

              1. Mike C.*

                But this process didn’t protect the privacy of the LW, so the process failed. Outside actual malice (which is admittedly a possibly here!) the way to make sure this never happens to the LW or anyone else in a similar situation. That’s the primary concern here.

                If it comes out that the coworker needs to be punished or even fired then by all means go for it (and this should be taken very seriously), but focusing on the coworker alone doesn’t fix this process.

                Look, I think the guy is a total creep but you can’t let that distract you from the main issue here – the LW needs a safe, comfortable, clean and private place to pump, as does anyone else who might find themselves in that situation.

                1. MuseumChick*

                  I was responding specifically to Stellaaaa’s assertion that “Fergus clearly couldn’t wait.”

                  There are two issues in the LW situation

                  Issue A: The current system is crappy and needs to be changed
                  Issue B: Fergus broke all the established protocol by entering a room with a clear Do Not Enter sign, that everyone in the office knows people get naked in, without so much as knocking.

                  My response to Stellaaaa deals with Issue B.

                2. LBK*

                  Look, I think the guy is a total creep but you can’t let that distract you from the main issue here – the LW needs a safe, comfortable, clean and private place to pump, as does anyone else who might find themselves in that situation.

                  But the OP actually does have that if people made logical, appropriate choices that you’d expect of professionals. A lock on the door should really only be a failsafe – literate adults shouldn’t be entering a room that has a Do Not Enter sign. You shouldn’t *need* a lock to keep people from barging in.

                3. Mike C.*


                  And yet we have a logical, professional work environment and still the LW’s privacy and dignity was violated. You’re right that you shouldn’t need a lock on the door, but clearly not having a lock on the door isn’t working.

                  People are people. Some people are creeps. Some people are thoughtless. Some people are ignorant. Some people who are normally good, wholesome, logical, professional occasionally make dumb decisions in an instant. So fix the root cause of the problem and everyone who needs to pump doesn’t have to rely on people for something that is well within their legal rights.

                4. LBK*

                  I don’t disagree with that, but I disagree that this incident is a distraction from the “main issue” of needing to put a lock on the door.

            2. not my usual alias*

              And I’m not willing to believe that his knuckles had been surgically removed, preventing him from knocking on the door. ;-)

              1. Jessesgirl72*

                She keeps repeating the same justification for Fergus, without addressing the multiple people asking why he didn’t just knock.

                Even surgically removed knuckles doesn’t work, as Fergus could have tapped with his foot, or elbow, or called in.

                I also suspect if Fergus had any kind of disability making these things impossible, the OP would more easily be able to identify which coworker it was. ;)

                1. Mike C.*

                  It doesn’t matter why the employee didn’t knock because the LW shouldn’t have to rely on her coworkers voluntary compliance to ensure her privacy while pumping. Anyone how doesn’t respect that privacy should be investigated and punished accordingly, but until you have a process that truly protects the LW, then you’ll just have more coworkers doing the same thing.

                  Only the next time it happens, the company will already be aware of the issue, but will be on the record for not having done anything about it.

                2. Mike C.*

                  99% isn’t good enough when we’re talking about issues like safety or privacy.

                3. Stellaaaaa*

                  I’m not being more stubborn than anyone else here who seems to be assuming that the average male office worker is going to give a crap about how women feel about pumping their breast milk. I’m not ignoring that he didn’t knock – I just don’t think it’s the lynchpin in this discussion that you seem to think it is.

                  If we’re going to implicitly accuse him of being a creepy voyeur, we’re giving him room to turn around and state that he doesn’t want to see OP naked anyway and he wasn’t looking at her, so it shouldn’t matter that he was in the same space as her.

                4. aebhel*

                  I don’t think he’s a creepy voyeur; I think he’s obnoxiously rude, inconsiderate, and disrespectful, and I’ve never worked in an environment where most people would assume that it’s no problem to walk in on a half-naked coworker as long as management hadn’t specifically forbidden it.

                  I did work somewhere where the bathroom door lock was broken, and magically enough, everyone managed to respect the hastily-written ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign until management got around to replacing the lock.

            3. LBK*

              People print things out as part of their jobs. They need to retrieve them. Sometimes they can’t wait.

              This excuse is only acceptable when the importance of the item you’re retrieving is proportional to the thing you’re interrupting. Surely there’s things you wouldn’t dare interrupt to get a document for your job, like a board meeting or someone being fired?

            4. LW*

              I can settle it and tell you that, in this office, there will never be a document so important that he couldn’t have waited 10 minutes for me to finish. That’s what made me so angry about it in the first place.

            5. Pearly Girl*

              We don’t know that he clearly couldn’t wait. But we do know that he wouldn’t.

            6. aebhel*

              Okay, but say there had been a lock on the door. That doesn’t make Fergus’s situation any different, but somehow I suspect that you’d balk at him breaking down the door to get his printouts; his printouts are seriously unlikely to be important enough that he needs to destroy company property to get them.

              Now apply that same logic to the OP’s situation, and substitute ‘deliberately violate coworker’s privacy’ for ‘destroy company property’.

        2. Fictional Butt*

          It allowed him to do that. It didn’t require him to.

          While I appreciate the principle of “if you don’t want someone to do something, make it physically impossible for them to do that thing,” it does not follow that every physically possible thing is also allowed. If Fergus truly did not understand that possible does not equal acceptable, I doubt he would be working in a professional (or any) environment.

          1. Mike C.*

            The problem with this sort of thinking is that if you don’t fix the underlying issue, then there is a risk of it happening again to the LW or any other woman who needs to pump.

            Only the next time it happens, it will be on the record that the company knew they was a problem but did nothing to prevent the issue.

            I know everyone wants to run out and punish this guy, and he likely deserves serious punishment, but you can’t let that distract you from the root cause of the problem.

            1. Fictional Butt*

              I’m not letting it distract me. I don’t agree with you and Dan that this is a “root cause” issue, though. To me there are two separate, equal problems:
              1. LW doesn’t have a truly secure place to pump.
              2. Fergus was way out of line in violating a rule that was well-established in the workplace.

              1. Mike C.*

                Why don’t you agree that this is a root cause?

                A secured location would have prevented any and all coworkers from violating the privacy of every pumping mother, but punishing the coworker in question does nothing to secure the location against future intrusions.

                Investigating and punishing the coworker should certainly be done in a timely manner of course, but that is done because bad behavior should be punished. It does not, in and of itself, fix or improve an otherwise faulty process.

            2. Jessesgirl72*

              I don’t think anyone is arguing that the OP shouldn’t firmly ask that a lock be installed.

              But none of this excuses Fergus’ actions. Just because the company hasn’t prevented you from doing some unethical thing doesn’t mean you’re still not responsible for having done so.

              And nothing justifies his not knocking first.

              1. Mike C.*

                I’ve said multiple times that I’m not excusing or justifying the coworkers actions and pointing out proper, systemic ways to ensure processes work does not in any way, shape or form excuse or justify the actions of this coworker.

                So I’m a bit mystified why you feel the need to tell me this. Blaming one coworker without addressing the root cause of this issue does nothing to ensure pumping mothers have a proper place to pump. That should be the main concern.

                1. Fictional Butt*

                  Well, tbh, I’m a bit mystified as to why you keep acting like no one thinks there should be a better pumping setup. Of course there should be. I haven’t seen a single comment on this thread disagreeing. But you keep saying that anger at Fergus is a “distraction.” Women’s feelings are always a distraction from the main issue, aren’t they? Because when a dude does something wrong, it’s just because the systems aren’t set up for his convenience! And making the systems more convenient will fix everything! Right?

                2. Myrin*

                  @FB, while I do agree with the first half of your comment, I really don’t think the second half is fair to Mike, who is actually somewhat known for posting comments that are specifically in favour of underpriviledged groups.

                3. Please_review*

                  AAM, can you please review FB’s reply to Mike C. It’s cynical, snarky, and biting. I think this kind of comment/thinking is what really poisons much of this thread.

                4. Fictional Butt*

                  Sorry– did not mean it as an insult to Mike C. I actually am aware of his reputation of defending underprivileged groups, which is why I even bothered to make the comment–wanted to alert him to how his comments were coming across. Maybe was not gentle enough.

                5. Jaguar*

                  Why is this a gender issue, Fictional Butt? Wouldn’t it be the same problem if a woman did the same thing?

                6. Mike C.*

                  The thing that got me responding were folks I saw jumping all over Dan for wanting to address the root cause. I saw several folks imply that if you talk about things like process or systemic issues that you are somehow excusing or justifying Fergus’s favor. It’s something I see a great deal when people want to address systemic issues.

                  I could have been more careful with my wording here about anger though.

                  I’m not being cynical, and being cynical is not against the rules. If you disagree with me, why not respond? I’m clearly not some random troll.

        3. Nephron*

          In the past few weeks I had to repeatedly walk 2 blocks crossing 2 major intersections to complete tasks that were essential job functions for a task my boss was tracking step by step. I did not run into traffic when the lights were against me. After weeks of frustration the final program I needed to use was not available on the public computer it was supposed to be on, there are a limited number of downloads allowed per subscription. I needed that program to complete the essential task that my boss was still tracking and a major external deadline was approaching. I did not steal the personal laptop of my coworker who had 1 of the downloads. I arranged to use 2 other computers, even coming in on the weekends to get the job done because the snafu with the downloads and the strict rules by the software company are not the fault of my coworker. Now that the deadline is passed I am working to fix the problem and I will continue to not make things difficult for the coworker that has the program on his personal laptop.

      2. Jessesgirl72*

        Exactly. Even if he needed the printouts that very second, his only choice wasn’t to barge in. A normal person would knock and apologize profusely for disturbing OP, and ask for the papers. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than walking in on a half naked coworker!

    7. Howdy Do*

      I too am having trouble working up as much upset about this as everyone. Total privacy is not the usual expectation of the printer room everyone uses. I don’t know how explicit the sign was, how often it’s up, if the guilty party has any clue how low pumping takes and figured it couldn’t possible take the 20 minutes he’d been waiting, if it was the same sign that they use for changing clothes, if that sign is always taken down in a timely manner, if the he tried to get his prints another time the sign was up earlier that day for changing or pumping and he was just frustrated/thought it just hadn’t been taken down. It was a bad solution and this might be the first time I’ve ever disagreed with advice on here – I don’t think addressing the guy (especially since they aren’t even sure who it was!) is necessary because this set up should be fixed immediately and there should no longer be any confusion where people need privacy in unlocked, usually open to everyone rooms!

      1. AD*

        I don’t know how explicit the sign was, how often it’s up, if the guilty party has any clue how low pumping takes and figured it couldn’t possible take the 20 minutes he’d been waiting, if it was the same sign that they use for changing clothes, if that sign is always taken down in a timely manner, if the he tried to get his prints another time the sign was up earlier that day for changing or pumping and he was just frustrated/thought it just hadn’t been taken down.

        All excellent points

        1. SarahKay*

          But missing one more excellent point: when he saw the room was in use, and being used for pumping he didn’t immediately back out, he took the time to grab his print-out. He also didn’t bother to apologise properly afterwards.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think addressing the guy is necessary. We don’t need to know the answers to the questions you’ve posed to know:

        1. OP says that the printer room is regularly used by people in various states of undress;
        2. When the printer room is used in that manner, it is common practice to post a sign that says DND;
        3. People do not routinely barge in when that sign is up, and we have no evidence that barging in without knocking has happened before; however
        4. Fergus was aware of the sign, was aware the room was in use (as evidenced by saying “sorry!” and not seeming the least bit surprised that the room was in use), and still barged in without knocking; and
        5. Failing to apologize in any meaningful manner afterward.

        The big picture problem is that the printer room is not an acceptable location for employees who need to pump. But the small picture problem is that, even with a substandard system, Fergus failed to comply with the basic requirements of the substandard system, and we have no knowledge of whether his failure is common or not (I suspect it is not common for people to barge in when the sign is up, or OP likely would have heard of it).

        His behavior frankly goes beyond basic human decency and behavioral norms (and certainly against the norms of the office), regardless whether he’s aware of the nature of pumping—it would have been similarly inappropriate if he barged in on a coworker had been in the process of changing clothes. OP’s manager needs to address both the big and little picture problems, and I think it’s appropriate to read him the riot act.

        1. MuseumChick*

          Excellent post PCBH! I like your way of dividing this into the the Big Picture Problem (crappy set up that nees to be changed) and the Small Picture Problem (What Fergus did was totally unacceptable at any level and there is no excuse for it based on what the LW has told us).

          Somewhere the LW updatedd that at this office there will never be something you need right that second that you printed it. So, I’m having a very hard time giving Fergus any leway here.

    8. Jerry Larry Terry Garry*

      Fair point, but the door is only closed when people are changing or pumping- unlike public bathrooms that typically present with closed doors/stalls. A lock is definitely needed- and the guy is an ass.

    9. Yorick*

      I’m guessing that people have also had the door opened while they were changing.

      I’m not sure I would notice an “in use” sign on the copy room door, and if so I might assume someone is printing/copying a huge job.

      Did the office publicize that the copy room was going to be used as a pumping room? If not, it’s not really fair to think he should have talked to HR about it.

      I don’t often print things that are very time sensitive, but I would be super annoyed if I printed something and couldn’t pick it up off the printer right away. I typically print because I need this printed out in order to do the task I’m working on right now.

    10. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      I wouldn’t blame him if he’d opened the door without noticing the sign, then immediately closed it while saying “sorry sorry sorry!” and apologized again later and never did it again. I also wouldn’t blame him for being annoyed if he couldn’t access the printer, as long as his annoyance was directed towards the company for the set-up and not at all towards the OP. But I do blame him for *walking into the room to get his printout* whether or not he noticed the sign, and if he did notice the sign then it wasn’t okay for him to open the door at all.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        That’s kind of where I am. I once, in a moment of travel exhaustion, blundered into the men’s restroom (I’m a woman). I have no particular excuse beyond exhaustion and bad jetlag–while it was a work location that I rarely am at, the room was clearly labeled. I’m sure it startled the heck out of my poor male coworker who was in there.

        But when I realized what had happened I went “OH NO, SORRY SORRY SORRY” and instantly wheeled around and got the hell out of there. I certainly didn’t mumble “sorry” and then go about my business!

    11. ChickenSuperhero*

      That’s some high level justification. But no. If you wouldn’t be ok with HR leading the new hire group into the bathroom as you’re peeing at the urinal, penis in hand, then Dan, don’t try to mansplain to women why this isn’t a terrible violation of privacy and dignity.

  18. Anon Anon*

    To be honest, I would suggest that another secure room be identified first before then suggesting a lock on the supply/printer room. Because I personally don’t think that a supply/printer room is a viable long-term solution for this sort of thing. And, I guess I can see my employer arguing about putting a lock on a room that most of the time needs to be available to most or all staff. To me the compromise would be a lock on the door you are using now.

    1. Yorick*

      I agree. This isn’t an appropriate place to have LW go to pump. It’s not secure for her privacy and it’s also bad for the coworkers.

  19. Chatterby*

    You need a doorstop. One of the sturdy, non-slip, wedge type ones. They’re a couple bucks.
    Shut the door, the shove the doorstop in. The door will now be very difficult to impossible to open. When you’re ready to leave, pull it out.
    It’s cheap, easy, portable, and does not involve power tools.
    Drawbacks: crappy doorstops will slide (always give the door handle a test yank before thinking you’re in the clear,) and this method only works if the door opens into the room.

  20. Stellar Pie*

    Yikes! I would have been horrified had a co-worker walked in on me.

    At my old job, we had an employee who would leave her breast pump lying around in the conference rooms and she would use the conference rooms even though they had been booked for trainings and meetings. She had been advised to use the server room, which was secure with a locking door and plenty of space, but she insisted on using whatever room she pleased and it got to be disruptive. She would also get annoyed when told to please clean up after herself. HR had to speak to her a couple of times because she refused to comply.

  21. Braxton*

    I agree with Alison. You definitely need to ask for a lock for the door. Are there any other rooms that management could reserve for use by people requiring privacy (to pump or get changed etc.) or could the printers and copier be relocated elsewhere in your office?

    I also think that your colleague was out of line. He should have left the room immediately and not walked over to the printer to collect his print-out!

    Have the management in your workplace formally communicated to the employees that the room will be used for privacy reasons on some occasions and advised employees not to try to enter if they see the sign on the door? If not, then they definitely need to send an e-mail around to the employees ASAP regardless of whether they go ahead with installing a lock on the door.

  22. LBK*

    What the fuuuuuuuuuuu-

    I just can’t come up with any interpretation of this story where the person didn’t deliberately intrude on a space where they knew a semi-naked person would be, even if they didn’t specifically know it was the OP and they didn’t do it just with the intention of glimpsing some boobs. The only possible explanation that might make it somewhat okay is if they realized they printed something extremely sensitive without thinking that the room might be occupied and they couldn’t risk the occupant reading it. But if that’s the case it’s still pretty damn stupid to mindlessly print off something that important to a room you know you might not be able to access right away.

    This is wildly unacceptable; I get that the system isn’t great, but I can’t agree that that absolves the intruder of any of the responsibility in this situation. It’s just such an inappropriate manner of “circumventing” the system.

    1. motherofdragons*

      “The only possible explanation that might make it somewhat okay is if they realized they printed something extremely sensitive without thinking that the room might be occupied and they couldn’t risk the occupant reading it.”

      Yeah, I can see this. But that would so quickly and easily be cleared up with a profuse apology and an explanation to LW. I’m getting some serious DGAF vibes from Fergus.

    2. Dan*

      To be clear in my comments above, I don’t think Fergus gets complete absolution. I also don’t think he gets a majority of the blame.

      1. LBK*

        I think he absolutely gets the majority of it. And I’m generally a person who only assigns people a very small portion of the blame for falling through the gaps in a bad system (I’ve certainly been that person many a time and I know how frustrating it was to get blamed for a bad system). But this is beyond the pale for me – this wasn’t falling through the gaps, this was barging straight through the gap and not even bothering to acknowledge it.

        Consider that he hasn’t come to the OP and profusely apologized yet, which I think would be in order; I think that’s one of my other issues with the “victim of a bad system” argument, that he’s not acting like a victim or that he didn’t have a choice. He seems to think this was a totally fine workaround.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Exactly. Fergus didn’t think this was a big deal. Fergus is very, very wrong.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              There are some things you shouldn’t have to tell people. Don’t ignore a “do not disturb” sign, is one. Don’t proceed into a room where you’ve just seen someone is undressed, is another. Sorry, but there’s a reasonable expectation for common sense.

              1. Jessesgirl72*

                Yeah. If I have to tell Fergus not to enter a room with a do not disturb sign where people are known to undress, it’s not worth my while to keep employing Fergus. That is just too much of a liability.

            2. LBK*

              I hope there’s no one being hired by my company who has to be told it’s a big deal to intentionally walk in on a half-naked coworker, or that they’re being fired for sexual harassment if they are.

            3. BF50*

              If Fergus doesn’t know it’s a big deal, that basically provides proof to me that he is a creep.

              1. Snorks*

                Or he thought that e.g. pumping was somewhat similar to breastfeeding, which is not unreasonable. People breastfeed in public all the time.

          1. Hills to Die on (formerly AMG)*

            I want to give Fergus a slap upside the head on behalf of OP.

        2. Dan*

          We can agree to disagree how much fault lies on Fregus…

          But to your last paragraph, we don’t know that Fergus has been told how bothered the OP is by this, or that anybody has even said anything to him. I’m not being obtuse — some people in OP’s shoes will have different reactions from “not caring” to “really bothered”. We also don’t know that Fergus has gotten in any trouble for it — until he does, I wouldn’t expect him to act like a victim.

          1. Hedgehog*

            This is a much better response. Yeah, I am a woman who has pumped and I am having a hard time relating to the calls for Fergus to be fired. It sounds awkward, but I don’t think it would be as mortifying to me as it was to OP, so I can see a scenario where he doesn’t even understand that it was traumatizing and this requires an apology. Not saying OP shouldn’t feel traumatized, but if Fergus’s perspective on it has been influenced by women who are less modest about pumping, maybe he is just clueless.

            1. LBK*

              But consider that the only reason this room is ever marked Do Not Enter is because someone is doing something they need privacy for. It’s not so much about whether Fergus is specifically gauging the OP’s mortification about the situation, it’s that you shouldn’t have to be told not to walk in on someone who’s in the private room.

          2. LBK*

            Needing to be told that this was inappropriate isn’t really any better. If anything it’s worse.

            1. ChickenSuperhero*

              Yeah. Fergus has two scenarios when looking at that Do Not Disturb sign and deciding to go in anyway – am I going to see a half naked co-worker, or a fully naked co-worker? Fergus is a perv.

          3. hbc*

            Yeah, and some people might enjoy a slap on the butt in greeting, but we still don’t default to it. Some people love dirty jokes, but you don’t just blast them out in the office.

            There is zero upside to walking in without knocking. The people who don’t care can say, “Come on in if you don’t mind a show” or “Gimme a minute to cover up.” This is basic Functioning In A Society-level awareness. If you have to tell Fergus not to enter a room that has a Do Not Enter sign on it, I shudder to think of what other explicit instructions have to be made still more explicit.

          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I don’t understand why he has to be told it bothered OP for him to recognize that it was completely unacceptable behavior.

        3. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yes, you’re expressing exactly what my problem with Fergus is. He absolutely did not need to barge into a room where he knew someone would be half naked without knocking. Nobody made him do that. However bad the system is, he is the only person who decided that was an acceptable thing to do and then did it.

          1. LBK*

            Right. “Employees may decide to enter the room anyway despite knowing there is a half-naked person in there” isn’t something you write on a risk register. It’s something you fire people for.

          2. Fictional Butt*

            Right. The system might be weird, but it had been working thus far. If people felt it was disturbing their work, they could raise that issue in the appropriate channels. Fergus decided to go totally rogue and just do what he wanted. That is 100% on him.

      2. Jerry Larry Terry Garry*

        Nope. The company is at fault for allowing a situation where this happens- the fix is very simple. Their omission allows people like Fergus to barge in if they decide what they want is more important than OP’s comfort and privacy. Doesn’t obsolve Fergus.

  23. Observer*

    Talk to your boss. Tell her what happened and ask for either a lock or another location. “There are no rooms with locks.” is not an acceptable reason for this situation to exist. They need to find a way to let you pump in a non-bathroom undisturbed. Period.

  24. Bubbles*

    This is my worst nightmare. I freak out when someone accidentally rattles my door as they slide papers underneath. I couldn’t imagine being walked in on, and by a man no less.
    I’m so sorry this happened to you, OP. Know that we, and the law, are on your side. I hope your manager takes this seriously and works with you to find a viable, long-term solution so your privacy is not violated in such a manner ever again.
    And congratulations on your little one!

    1. Paxton*

      This is why I am baffled that people think a lock on this very public and commonly used room is the answer. Being walked in on isn’t the only way to be disturbed causing issues. Being startled by knocks or stressed that people are waiting right outside the door tapping their foot may cause supply issues as well leading to a need to pump even more.

      OP needs a better location and a lock.

  25. Catalin*

    I’m a little unclear: did he actually walk into the room or just open the door, grab something off the (immediately adjacent) printer? Still wrong, but slightly less egregious than WALKING INTO THE ROOM.

  26. New Dad*

    I’d like to add my perspective as a new dad (as of last year) of a baby mostly fed by expressed milk. Not assuming malice, I think the dude was just clueless. I didn’t know what pumping really involved, and how hard it can be for the mom, until I had to support my wife through it. What he did was inexcusable but maybe he didn’t really understand the situation? Risha’s comments above ring true.

    It could be a case where better educating the two dudes would be sufficient, until a proper secure room can be provided.

    1. Observer*

      Do you mean to tell me that you did not realize that women who pump need to expose their breasts? That alone is sufficient reason to STAY OUT. Some women don’t care about exposing their breasts – and they can pump at their desks if they want to, but no one has the right to decide that for someone else.

      Beyond that, this room is also used by people who need to change. Which means that either this guy knew who was in there – which has its own set of issues – or he took a chance on walking in on someone even more exposed than the op. That’s not about “cluelessness”.

      1. Shadow*

        Not all women expose their breasts to the world when they pump. I’ve seen plenty with capes and even some bras with a slit that allowed you to attach without breast exposed

        Depending on the circumstances it’s possible cluelessness. Now if she pumps regularly at the same time everyday then it’s inexcuseable, but I could totally someone walking in on a do not enter sign if they don’t expect it to be there on that day or at that time.

        1. Steph B*

          So obviously all pumping women should be wearing a cover in a room with a closed door with a do not disturb sign.

          This line of reasoning is starting to feel a little like victim blaming, even if that isn’t the intention at all.

          For whatever reason, a coworker violated this woman’s privacy without her consent. That is the issue and what should be dealt with here. If instead the LW had written in to say that a coworker walked in while she was getting changed into a sports bra to go to the gym after work, would the responses be that she should have made sure she had a shirt on while she was changing?

          1. Shadow*

            I never said she wasn’t violated just that it’s possible it was an accident and not intentional

        2. BF50*

          How do you get the bra with the slit on without removing the one you wore to work first?

          None of the ones I’ve seen were bras you could actually wear. They are mostly designed for hands free pumping. Granted my baby is now 3. Maybe there have been huge advances in pumping bras in the last 2 years.

          1. Observer*

            No. You are completely correct – it takes a LOT of planning and fairly specialized clothing to make this doable (not practical.) The idea that someone might be familiar enough with the most uncommon type of nursing bra + nursing clothes to realize the potential to cover up AND be so clueless that they actually think for one second that any woman is going to actually obtain and wear this stuff to pump in a closed room makes absolutely no sense.

        3. Observer*

          Please. Anyone who knows THAT much about pumping to know that there are these really unusual set ups that enable you to pump without exposing yourself can;t claim cluelessness. And, besides the room is also used for people who CHANGE THEIR CLOTHES.

    2. Fictional Butt*

      So what? It doesn’t matter whether he knows exactly what pumping entails or whether he doesn’t even know where milk comes from. The door said Do Not Enter. He entered. There’s no grey area here. It’s not up to a dude to decide whether he intellectually understands why a woman needs privacy.

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        The gray area is that the door could be opened and that his job materials were in the room. People don’t tend to think to ask permission to get their own papers off of their own authorized printers.

        You may not think the gray area is important, but it definitely exists.

        1. not my usual alias*

          So if there were any other door in the building that said Do Not Enter, but he wanted something that was on the other side of that door, you’d consider it a grey area?

          1. Shadow*

            People accidentally don’t see signs all the time even when they’re obvious. Ever seen someone with their face buried in a phone or reading something or just in too much of a rush?

            1. Steph B*

              As an aside, I’ve been working at my current job for about six months now. The commute is long, and right when I get off the freeway I have to take a right hand turn. Last week I noticed for the first time that there is a big ‘no right turn on red’ sign. I can’t tell if it has always been there or is a new thing or what. IT IS DRIVING ME NUTS. If it has always been there, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned right on red.

              That all said, that traffic sign is so totally not the same thing as a Do Not Enter sign on a door in an office, and I think it is complete the fault of this coworker for violating another coworker’s privacy.

            2. BF50*

              If he hadn’t seen the sign, I imagine his reaction would have been more of a startled “Oh #%$#$%! I’m so sorry!” rather than a tiptoe, whispered apology which implies he saw the sign and ignored it.

              1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

                A coworker walked in on me pumping in my classroom when I first got back from my maternity leave – I had forgotten to lock the door, and normally there’s no expectation of needing to knock before walking into someone’s classroom. She got the door about six inches open when she noticed me and immediately closed it again. We both called out “Sorry! Sorry!” at each other through the door as she beat a hasty retreat… I found her later and we laughed about it, and that was the last time I left my door unlocked!

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              This makes no sense to me in light of the fact that he said “sorry” in a manner that suggested he knew OP required privacy but decided that wasn’t as important as his printing. This seems like an awful lot of work to justify behavior that seems pretty objectively bad to me.

        2. Jessie the First (or second)*

          You are working hard to argue for a gray area but I do not see one here.

          Just because a door cannot lock does not mean people can enter it at all times regardless. Yes, even if at other times it is okay to go into the room. Yes, even if the printer he uses is there. I would think MOST people understand that a room could be off-limits sometimes. That’s presumably why the company uses this set up for its nursing employees and why employees use this set up when they change clothes- because people can read, and see signs on the door, and understand the concept that just because a door is not locked or barricaded does not mean it is always okay to open. A closed door with a sign that says do not enter with a history of being used for changing clothes and pumping milk? Having a printer in the room doesn’t transform that into “confusing gray area.”

          The company needs to idiot-proof their pumping room, certainly, and install a lock. They have a bad system there because it is not idiot-proof. But it is idiot-proofing to do that, because people should really understand that a closed door with a do not enter sign means, at the very least, you need to knock first. That’s not rocket science. And *especially* at this particular company, where there is an established history of people using the room to get naked.

        3. hbc*

          Good grief. Are you constantly walking out of fire exits and blaming the company for the blaring alarms? “Do Not Enter”–kindergartners can read, understand, and obey this message.

        4. Observer*

          If anyone said that to me I would tell them to grow up. ESPECIALLY since it’s a known thing that people actually change in there.

          When a door is closed and there is a sign that says “keep out” you KEEP OUT even if something that belongs to you is in there.

      2. bridget*

        I think New Dad’s point is not that he agrees with this guy, but that LW’s privacy problem might be solved by talking to one or two people, which is the ultimate goal here (ensuring LW has a place free from intrusion to pump). That is the case if the root cause is ignorance (no matter how unjustified) of an otherwise well-meaning person.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      No. There was a sign on the door that it was in use. He SAW the situation, and still walked into the room. That’s not ignorance, that’s malice. He doesn’t need education – he needs disciplinary action.

      1. Shadow*

        Oh please. You don’t know anyone whose ever gone the wrong way on a one way street or didn’t see a sign that was CLEARLY there?

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Sure, and if a cop sees that person, the person is probably getting a ticket for it. Sometimes we expect people to pay attention to something, and if they don’t, there are consequences, even if the intent wasn’t malicious.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          But you’re missing that he not only ignored the sign, he then saw HER in a state of undress and decided to proceed in anyway. This isn’t just a missed sign.

      2. WPH*

        This. The system is not perfect but Fergus decided the rules didn’t apply to him and his paper (or perviness) was more important than her privacy. This incident is all on him and he should be disciplined.

    4. NonnyNon*

      I would agree, except the LW said that the supply room has always been used for a similar purpose: “There is precedent for this kind of thing in my office — people often use the supply room to change in and out of workout clothes and put a similar sign on the door.”

      If the precedent is there then Fergus either a) saw the sign and didn’t care that he’d see LW pumping or a coworker changing, which is still gross and Not Okay or b) he didn’t see the sign, but then noticed that someone was in there because he said “Sorry” but still went in to get his printout… which is still Not Okay, because if someone is in there they’re either changing or pumping and you don’t barge in on either situation. Even if he didn’t realize that LW would be exposed while pumping that still shows an incredible amount of disrespect because, again, LW puts up a sign and there’s a precedent in the office for not ignoring those signs.

      1. MuseumChick*

        This. Fergus, presumably, didn’t know who was in the room or why. He could have walked in on someone in a state of complete undress. And even if he did know it was the LW and why she was in there I think it’s safe to assume he knows enough to know where human milk comes from.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Thank you for breaking this down! Under either framework, Fergus doesn’t get a pass. I don’t understand the mental acrobatics that are going into trying to brush off or excuse his decision to take the actions he took.

    5. ChickenSuperhero*

      He knew he would either see naked coworker breasts, or naked coworkers. Those are the only 2 options for that sign that he chose to ignore. Explain to me again how you’re fine with this?

  27. Queen Anne of Cleves*

    this very situation happened at Old Job and the person who walked in on the woman with breasts akimbo was fire immediately.

    1. MuseumChick*

      I really love this. Thank goodness there are some companies that take this kind of thing seriously.

    2. Pearly Girl*

      I just love the “breasts akimbo” line.

      People just don’t say akimbo enough, if you ask me…

    3. ChickenSuperhero*

      Thank you for saying this. I’m close enough to pumping for me to be taking this personally.

  28. Kyrielle*

    OP, you have my sympathy! This happened to me five years ago except that I _was_ in a locking room – the room they had given me was the room our network and phone cabling was in, and that required a key to access. I hung a sign on the door that asked if anyone needed to enter, please knock and wait for a response.

    There was some work needed on the phone stuff one day, which no one communicated with me about in advance, and when the technician arrived I was in there getting set up for pumping or finishing (I forget which). Despite my sign, the door was unlocked and opened – fortunately I was not pumping at that time or in a state of undressed, but they did not knock. I spoke up and ended up leaving the room. I _think_ I hadn’t pumped yet and came back later, but honestly I may be mis-recalling; it’s been a while.

    The coworker who did this was utterly unapologetic, just like, well the contractor is here now and we need to do this.

    I talked to my boss; he and HR were both horrified. There was a chain lock installed on the inside of that door within a couple of days, so that it couldn’t be opened (much) while one of us was in there pumping.

    This is absolutely unacceptable and asking for further ways to secure the room is completely reasonable.

    1. Kyrielle*

      There is no perfect location for pumping, other than perhaps a dedicated lactation room.

      I’ve talked to women totally horrified by this scenario. I considered it very nearly ideal – the room had its own dedicated supplemental AC, was always comfortable, was locking – and then double-locking, because argh – and of course had plenty of power outlets so I didn’t have to worry about power – had no windows – and was conveniently located for me.

      I’ve also talked to techie people totally horrified by the scenario and the risk of spills. I understand their horror more, but this is where I say the room was large enough that I was able to sit where I was not immediately adjacent any critical equipment to spill on it directly, and of _course_ none of it was on the floor. I promise you it was safe. :)

    2. Oh Fed*

      I also had someone enter a locked room with a door sign as I was pumping. 15+years ago, I was happy to have a room that wasn’t a bathroom and coworkers that wouldn’t give me grief to use my break and lunch time to pump. Pumping with my two older children was so challenging because of interruptions, erratic times, stress, etc and as a result I did not breastfeed as long as I had planned. So that night I asked a male coworker to cover my patients while I took my break. I didn’t specifically say that I was going to pump but I did say that I was going to take my full 20 minutes. This was in an ICU so we used our family conference room which had couches and a lock on the door that all of the nurses and housekeeping staff had a key for. I put my sign on the door just above the lock so it could not be missed while unlocking and got to pumping. Not even 10 minutes after I left did the door open and in walked my coworker — the one who was supposed to be covering my patients as well as his own–with a blanket and pillow in hand intending to take a nap. I think there were several more hours in the shift in which I proceeded to remind him of what a jerk and lousy nurse he was.
      We have a really nice lactation room now BTW!

  29. New Mama Anon*

    Ughhhh. I was in a very similar boat when I came back from maternity leave (offices with glass walls, no locks on doors, storage room designated for pumping) and had to deal with a higher-up telling me that I needed to pump in the bathroom (!!!) because he was using the room when I needed it.

    I complained to HR and complained to my boss (in writing) and made sure to include a link to the DOL website that explicitly says that nursing mothers must be provided a private space that is free from intrusion (and not the bathroom) to pump. It got taken care of pretty quickly after that.

    If you’re not comfortable addressing it with Fergus directly, I’d definitely ask your boss to do so on your behalf. Other ideas: use a doorstop or chair to wedge the door shut (if you have to continue using that room), make a new/brightly colored sign so people aren’t able to just go on autopilot when they see the usual “Do Not Disturb” sign, see if your office would be up for posting a schedule of blocked-out times so that your coworkers know when the room will be unavailable to get printouts.

    Good luck!

  30. Margaret*

    The coming in and whispering “sorry” is maybe appropriate if someone is clearly on the phone, but you need to walk in and get them to quickly sign something anyway. You don’t do that when you know someone is going to be partially nude/exposed!

    I’m pumping, and have my own office (with a locking door!) to pump in. Our offices have windows into the hallway – but pumping moms (we’ve had quite the baby boom lately) have curtains hung up over them. So, if I have a curtain in my window, you know I might be pumping at times (or you’d have to be mighty oblivious to not connect the dots). And yet, I’ve still had a handful of times of people (probably intending to leave something on my desk) knock, not get a response (because I’m startled to not respond immediately), and then try to open the door! It’s rare for doors to be shut, so I guess maybe they think janitorial shut it or something and I’m not in? But they can also see my light is on, so…

    No real point here, just that people can really be dumb sometimes. And thank goodness for locks.

  31. Aunt Margie at Work*

    What’s that cool saying the successful people have? “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness later than permission before.”
    No. No, it is not. I agree with everyone who states that coworker needs to have this spelled out. It is not ok.

    1. motherofdragons*

      Totally. And even if Fergus adheres to this particular mindset, he’s doing an awful job at the “asking for forgiveness” part!

    2. ChickenSuperhero*

      She doesn’t need to convince Fergus he was wrong – she needs to convince HR to fire Fergus.

  32. Yeah I'm Commenting!!*

    This happened to me except I had a lock! I was working at a college and would use a classroom which almost always was only used for night classes which would take place well after I had left for the day. Even still, I would post a sign saying something along the lines of “Do not enter in use” or something and lock the door. Well one day while I was pumping an instructor used his key to open the door. Luckily I was facing away from him, but I turned my head and said “I’m using the room!” thinking he would understand what was going on but he didn’t and he said “when are you going to be done?” WTF? I don’t remember what else I said other that some exasperated “please leave” or something but he asked again! He finally left and I hurriedly finished up. When I walked out, he was standing at the door and seemed to have finally realized what happened and apologized and made some mention of his wife pumping and him understanding or something like that. He apparently had rescheduled his normal night class during the day but hadn’t reserved the room so I didn’t know he would be there. Ultimately it was an incredibly uncomfortable situation and I hope OP gets this resolved ASAP!

  33. Persephone Mulberry*

    I don’t really understand the uproar at the company for suggesting she use the copy room, much less as her backup location. It would be lovely if every office had the space for a dedicated lactation room, but that’s probably the exception rather than the rule. The issue isn’t the space she’s using, it’s that the previously taken-for-granted system for privacy is no longer working.

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      The “uproar” (I don’t think it’s that serious) isn’t about having a backup location. It’s about having that backup location be a room that every single employee who prints reasonably needs free access to at all times during the workday. How often do breastfeeding women pump? And how long does that take? If your job involved the quick turnover of documents, could you really adjust your routine around severely restricted access to your printer? And what about every other employee, who presumably is on their own individualized timeline in regards to printing?

      1. not my usual alias*

        You continue to ignore the fact that “don’t get my documents” or “walk right in and get my documents” were not the only options. He could have knocked on the door and asked permission to come in and get his documents. I’m sure that would have fit into his own individualized timeline.

        1. Ann O'Nemity*

          It made me anxious when people knocked and wanted to have conversations through the door while I was pumping at work. And that’s when I had a lock on my own office door. I can’t even imagine being pestered while in a shared supply closet.

        2. Stellaaaaa*

          I’m not ignoring that. I guess I’m thinking of it from the perspective of coworkers who simply don’t care, are used to being in an office that already isn’t complying with the spirit of applicable laws, and are maybe a little too accustomed to people using the printer room for non-printing stuff. To some people, the fact that people are using this room for other stuff means that they can discretely enter and take care of their job tasks without thinking that they’re being disruptive.

          I also don’t think that a “do not enter” sign placed on the printer room by non-management would override my urge to get my work docs off a printer. If I knew that coworkers were just deciding to put up these signs, and I had not been explicitly told by management to honor those signs, I’m not sure I would. I would honor a sign made by management and a directive to honor coworkers’ signs if instructed to do so, but if my observational knowledge was limited to the fact that my coworker decided to put up her own sign, I wouldn’t view that as an enforceable instruction that came from management. We know that people are allowed to use the room for pumping and quick changes. We don’t know that the employees have been told that OP is entitled to absolute privacy. That’s not something you spontaneously know without being told. I’m a woman in my 30s and I have to echo New Dad: I didn’t know until recently that pumping was a full-topless thing. I thought women did it under their shirts, or they could unbutton their blouses a little and do it. I still don’t really know what a breast pump looks like. I don’t know anyone who has ever used one. So yeah, I’m not going to come down on some dude for having a mind to do his job and possibly not knowing the details of what pumping is. I don’t know what it is. You could tell me “OP is pumping in there” and I would have no idea that her top was off.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            ” If I knew that coworkers were just deciding to put up these signs”

            People aren’t “just deciding” to put up signs for no reason, though. They are putting up signs because they are TAKING OFF THEIR CLOTHES. Do you only ever print documents that are needed immediately to stop the imminent nuclear war? Because I’m having trouble understanding why you think that you should have an inalienable right to pick up whatever you print out, whenever you print it out, regardless of whether that means barging in on someone when they are vulnerable.

            Unless you work somewhere that has a rash of employees putting up “do not enter” signs just for laughs, why would you not assume that the sign is there for a reason–a reason that, you being on the other side of the door, are in no place to judge the reasonableness of. Why isn’t the reasonable thing to do to at least knock, or maybe ask someone else why the sign is there?

            1. Contrarian Annie*

              “Imminent nuclear war” is relative to the particular company!

              What I mean by that is…. yeah, the “Quarterly Teapot Market Mind-share Report” isn’t on the scale of nuclear war. But to the Teapot Mind-share Reporting Company, publishing that on deadline is make or break for their continuation as a company!

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                We need way more facts than what was in the letter before I will agree that Fergus couldn’t even take the time to knock before barging into a room where someone was in a state of undress. I seriously doubt that whatever the printout was, it couldn’t wait until she finished pumping, but even if it couldn’t, what he did is not ok.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              JB, I’m sorry—I have to say that this made me laugh (and the laugh was much needed). I agree with everything you wrote.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                I’m glad it made you laugh–I always enjoy your comments so it’s nice to return the favor for once. :)

          2. MuseumChick*

            Just to clarify, are you saying that if you knew, from experience that there was a room your co-workers got naked in and the signal for that was a “Do Not Enter” sign, you would still enter, without knocking, because management didn’t tell you not to?

            1. Stellaaaaa*

              If I knew that people were allowed to put up those signs but my perception was that it was a thing where “management allows it but there are no hard rules on the books about it,” I probably wouldn’t honor the signs if I felt that I needed to get my stuff off a printer. So what if some coworker changes out of workout gear in that room while I’m on the clock? So what if I see that someone else has put up a sign? Manners might dictate that wait until the woman puts a shirt on, but I’m not in the practice of deferring to peer-level coworkers about what rooms I’m allowed to enter in the course of my workday. I would need to be told explicitly by a superior that employees are allowed to restrict access to the printer room at their own discretion. Marge from accounting has put a “do not enter” sign on the copy room and I don’t know her or what she’s doing in there? I’m going in and getting my papers. Management instructs nursing moms to make specific “Do not enter – I am pumping” signs and tells everyone to honor them? Then I will.

              1. LBK*

                Sorry, this is honestly just insane to me…this isn’t about deference to peers who don’t have authority over you (!?). This is about common decency, especially since it sounds like this wasn’t some one-off nutjob who decided to turn the printing room into their own personal play fort. You don’t “defer” to your coworkers because they have authority over you, you do it because you’re humans and you have respect for each other. This is such an odd way to view this situation, as some sort of power trip or struggle.

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  Yeah, I get chafing at inconvenience, but in a functioning workplace, sometimes you just have to wait for things, and that should not be that big of a deal. And in this kind of situation, anybody who knowingly barged into a room where they *knew* people were undressed just because weren’t going to “defer” to peers about what rooms they are “allowed” to enter–that person is getting fired.

                  I’m not saying Fergus should definitely be fired (he should definitely get some sort of discipline) because I don’t know what he was thinking or why he did it. But if his reasoning was just “why should I have to wait? She’s not my boss and can’t tell me what to do. I go where I want in the work place,” then he should be fired for sure.

                2. LBK*

                  Right – and to express that defiance by intentionally walking in on a half-naked coworker? Completely unacceptable.

                3. SwitchyWitchy*

                  (LBK, this did not come out short – forgive me.)

                  But I think that deference is more historically reliable when there’s someone around to enforce it. (On that line of thought, historically, in western culture (and.. most cultures?), men have been in a position of power over women in the workforce. The idea of a power trip/struggle is not that out of line, considering the argument is based on what can be socially considered a difference between the two sexes which our culture recognizes as mainstream.)
                  I’m sure you’re not arguing this simply, but just because people are supposed to be decent doesn’t mean they will be. For a lot of people (myself included) being ‘decent’ and ‘respectful’ feels like fighting upstream; I feel victorious when I’m successful, not like it’s the norm.

                  There’s no way to actually count on common respect; probably because people will have conflicting needs in life that render those difficult if not impossible. People who are used to operating under those circumstances will have less of that currency to spend.
                  Was Fergus thuswise broke – who knows?
                  Who *can* know. At the end of the day, how important is it to making this not happen again, because is it more reasonable/timely to change Fergus into a decent person or to punish him appropriately and get a better lactation room solution?
                  Shouldn’t it be important to have someone who can enforce rules, for the sake of those who aren’t in a position to make those kinds of changes, themselves?

                  (I actually say this as a STRONG believer that people are inherently creative and don’t need to be governed; I just don’t think we’re inherently *kind*, because history has told us of those dangers – and that seems to be the crux of your argument.)

                4. LBK*

                  I understand that we obviously need formal rules and authority and punishment because obviously people break those informally established boundaries. That’s why Fergus needs to be reporting to a manager and disciplined, and not having a rule that exactly covers this rule inscribed in stone doesn’t mean it’s not still an obvious violation that should be punished.

              2. SarahKay*

                Umm…if I knew people were changing in there, even if it I believed management knew nothing about it, and probably wouldn’t approve, that doesn’t make it any less rude of me if I barge in anyway.

                Surely the correct / polite / work-appropriate action would be to let management know, and ask them to issue clear guidelines. If those clear guidelines said changing was forbidden, I *might* then think, ‘well, they’ve been told, serve them right’, and barge in.

                But even then, surely the appropriate action is to let management know who it is ignoring their decision and let management take it up with the culprit. Yes, at that point the culprit is being rude and inconsiderate… but two wrongs still don’t really make a right.

                1. LBK*

                  Yeah, I mean, if we remove the sign element and say a coworker just asked you to not going into the copy room for a few minutes so they could change, would you really tell them “Listen, you’re not the boss of me, if I need something in there then I’m going in”?

                  If you actually would say that, then I would fire you. I don’t need needlessly contrarian people with no common sense or decency on my team.

              3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Stellaaaa, with all due respect, if you said this to me (and if you were Fergus in this situation), I would fire you.

                1. AMPG*

                  Yes. This kind of attitude can be poisonous in a workplace and I’d want to yank it out by the root.

              4. ChickenSuperhero*

                “So what if some coworker changes out of workout gear in that room while I’m on the clock? Manners might dictate that wait until the woman puts a shirt on, but I’m not in the practice of deferring to peer-level coworkers about what rooms I’m allowed to enter in the course of my workday.”

                You’re… actually pretty awful.

          3. Jessie the First (or second)*

            But what would be your resistance to knocking first? I just don’t get your reasoning there. Even if you decided you were going to walk in on people even if they might be naked because it wasn’t management’s sign…. why wouldn’t you knock? It seems hostile not to knock. You should not need a formal management directive telling you to be considerate of coworkers. And if your objection is “they shouldn’t be using that room and so I will take a stand against it!” you would be far better served to make your point in a way that didn’t involve intruding on colleagues when you know they will be naked (pumping milk aside, people use it to change too).

            1. Stellaaaaa*

              My reasoning is that even if this is an office where random employees are allowed to put up signs, I don’t have to actually follow them if they inconvenience me, especially if it’s not in the handbook and I haven’t been otherwise told by an authority figure that my employment might be terminated if I don’t comply with employee-made signs keeping me out of rooms where my stuff is being held. Fergus might not have known that OP was pumping. There are no laws requiring privacy for changing out of workout gear, and it’s possible that everyone is much looser on that count. Unless Fergus knew that OP was pumping and not changing clothes, he had no way of knowing that he was stepping into a situation that has legit laws attached to it. You can’t expect people to know that you’re pumping if you don’t tell them.

              1. LBK*

                This is a weirdly prescriptivist view that doesn’t reflect how most offices work. There are a lot of office rules that exist purely through convention or practicality, not in written doctrine. “It’s not an official rule” is a reeeeally weak defense if it’s a commonly known thing that that’s the changing room – you don’t get to discard or disregard that knowledge because it’s not officially documented.

              2. inapartydress*

                Your position is bafflingly combative towards your coworkers. Someone who needs explicit instructions from management to value coworkers’ bodily privacy over a printout when the work is not literal life-and-death is someone I’d regret hiring.

              3. Student*

                You, specifically, and your worldview, is the reason the employer is legally required to provide an appropriate and private area for women to pump in, and why that place should have a lock.

                The reason you and people like you should’ve respected the sign here? There is a law – which trumps your personal authority, your co-worker’s authority, and your manager’s authority – that says workplaces must accommodate women pumping with a non-bathroom private space. You’re obeying a federal law to accommodate pumping – not the mother, not the basic-human-decency thing, nor even the management. You follow the law because you will be fired for causing your company to break the law, and the company will in turn be fined.

              4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                So I’m going to say two things that are somewhat contradictory.

                The first is that I totally disagree with you, and I find this approach to workplace norms strange.

                That said, I actually think there are a lot of workplaces and a lot of workers who feel the way Stellaaaaa is describing—that absent a direct order, rule, or formal instruction from someone higher up, they would not “yield” to a coworker’s need for privacy. Personally, I’ve seen this in two contexts: (1) non-white-collar workplaces (e.g., basic retail, restaurants, factory gigs); (2) in workplaces that attract folks who tend to be bright and contrarian or into a very specific idea of equality in the workplace.

                So while I’ve now worked primarily in places where the approach described is 1000% not ok, I recognize that there’s a percentage of folks, like Stellaaaaa, who are bright but also disinclined to adopt informal systems in the workplace. While it does not sound like that’s the culture at OP’s workplace (to ignore informal systems) from OP’s perspective, it’s certainly possible that Fergus feels similarly to Stellaaaaa. And we don’t really have enough information to know if that approach is tolerated at OP’s workplace.

                1. LBK*

                  Once again I’ll say that that’s all well and good when we’re talking about the informal system for refilling the coffee pot or doling out work assignments in the morning, but this stops becoming a contrarian thought experiment when half-naked coworkers are involved. That goes beyond defiance of workplace norms into violating basic tenets of human decency. We’re not talking about something in the abstract, we’re talking about someone’s physical privacy.

                2. MuseumChick*

                  @LBK, that’s just it. It’s about acting in a respectful, decent way to another human being. On a much smaller scale, its like how I would never just go and take something off another co-workers desk without asking (even if it was something I needed right that second!). There doesn’t need to be a policy, in black and white explicitly telling me not to do that. Because it’s part of being respectful to another person.

                3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  LBK, I agree with you.

                  It just took me reading through all of Stellaaaaa’s comments to realize that I’ve worked with people and in workplaces that operate in the way Stellaaaaa has described. I find those practices to be super bizarre—I don’t think you have to have a an order from somewhere on high to behave with consideration and thoughtfulness. And honestly, I don’t want to live in a society where people don’t behave (in the workplace) with basic kindness, consideration, and respect for others absent a direct order from a “manager” type.

                  But I’ve certainly met people who decide that, in the workplace, they don’t have to behave decently to others unless someone “makes” you. So although I don’t agree with it or like it, I am slowly beginning to come around to the idea that OP’s workplace needed to be more firm when they created this set up and that they should be this explicit/firm going forward.

              5. ChickenSuperhero*

                Oh hey – would hate for you to be *inconvenienced* in your quest to stick it to the (naked wo) man. You are the worst.

          4. Jerry Larry Terry Garry*

            What? You need to be told what do not disturb means? And most people changing clothes where you’re from are cool with people popping in and out of the room?
            Look, it may be taking too much time away from printing room access for it to be a pump room, but the solution isn’t to start barging in on people.

            1. Yorick*

              If you change clothes in a non-private area that everyone in the office needs access to in the course of your job, you are probably consciously taking the risk that someone might come in. I wouldn’t be ok with that, so I would change in the bathroom (not saying that pumping should be done in the bathroom, of course)

            2. Stellaaaaa*

              I don’t need to be told what “do not disturb” means. I know what it means. But no one HAS to respect the arbitrary signs placed on doors by people who carry no authority to direct the comings and goings of coworkers they don’t even know.

              1. LBK*

                You don’t have to respect the sign, but that means you accept the consequences that come from disregarding it.

                1. SwitchyWitchy*

                  I think (at least part of) the point is that there’s no guarantee people will take seriously things they should take seriously. Even if all the people in the world agree on something, if one person does not, there is no way to make that person involuntarily change their perspective (meaning, Fergus would have to be beaten into submission/until no longer a threat to the norm) or to ever understand Fergus’ perspective (meaning, Fergus may or may not have good reasoning for his convictions/thoughtlessness, but he is going to follow them through anyway).

                  So, Fergus does not have to accept the consequences, unless he is in a position to be made to by someone(s) higher/stronger than himself. Which is why I understand those whose point is to have management talk to him, or otherwise have it made clear to Fergus that this was 100% unacceptable and can never happen again, by means of Fergus changing his behavior or by him being eliminated from the scenario entirely.

                  Obviously, I’m arguing theory, not advocating violence toward anyone. I just don’t think you can actually ever control the actions of people; besides, sometimes people do things because they think they can get away with it – the intentionality of the maliciousness is besides the point when we can’t predict behavior or 100% induce unwillful change in anyone.

              2. Jerry Larry Terry Garry*

                I guess I haven’t been in a culture of people putting up a bunch of “unauthorized” signs.
                When I was pumping at different locations, I had a few rooms with a door and a sign situations.
                Would your work required a signature of a manager on the sign? An email to heed the sign?
                Were there sign incidents that lead to your distrust?

          5. kittycritter*

            Oh Stellaaaa, you’re getting piled on here while I am sitting here silently agreeing with you. So let me be the lone voice who totally feels what you’re saying. First off, I would be pissed off at my company if there was only one printer that I could access. But that being the case, when I print something out, it’s usually because I need it NOW for something I am working on. And not being able to retrieve my document after printing would cause me to get behind – and my workload is already a bottomless pit. So if there was absolutely NO communication from mgmt, and I saw a Do Not Enter sign on the print room door with no explanation, then yes I very well may just open that door anyway to grab my stuff.

            1. inapartydress*

              And if you knowingly violated your coworkers’ privacy (by ignoring the sign, or not noticing the sign and then finding yourself faced with a half-naked coworker, proceeding anyway), you’d deserve to be disciplined. If you need explicit rules/management directives not to violate basic decency, you’re a bad employee.

        1. fposte*

          But you don’t want Fergus to knock either. You want a clear “Do not disturb” policy while people are using it as a lactation room.

          1. MuseumChick*

            As I said in an above post, there are two issue going on here.

            1) Issue A: The current system is crappy and needs to change.
            2) Issue B: Fergus entered a room with a clear Do Not Enter sign knowing that a person was very likely at least partially undressed without knocking first.

            My post deals with issue B.

          2. Jessie the First (or second)*

            Yes, absolutely. But I think we have devolved into arguing whether Fergus is a creep (because shouldn’t he AT LEAST have knocked?) or clueless (“Who knew pumping milk involved breasts?”) or an awesomely efficient employee (“I print only mission-critical, time-sensitive urgent papers and need them now to avert catastrophe, and I wait for no one!”).

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, fair point–firing Fergus (which I’m not necessarily behind–I’d need to know more) wouldn’t solve the organizational problem of the message around the room use and/or the lock.

          3. Kyrielle*

            Yes, this! To be clear, the sign I mentioned using elsewhere in this post had a request to knock if an urgent situation came up, but that was (a) because the room I was personally using could become suddenly critical*, and (b) I had an oversupply and overactive letdown, so being interrupted in a way that stopped the flow of my milk was not likely to represent a significant setback for me. For many women (for most, from what I understand), it would. I don’t want anyone to think I’m advocating that as a general solution for all people. (Although goodness, if you are _absolutely_ going to either barge in or knock, rather than waiting, please knock.)

            * Phone/network room. Phones out wouldn’t have been worth an interruption, but network out might have, if attempts to resolve it remotely failed; we did sometimes have highly-critical actions that needed to happen and required the network. A drawback of the space that I accepted because the potential for it happening while I was in there, and potential impact for me if it did, were too small to make it worth worrying about.

      2. Kyrielle*

        How often do employees print? How often do they need to quickly turn over documents?

        Our printer space would never be used for this – because it’s in a wide spot in a hallway – but I don’t think that printer gets used even every day. I’m sure it doesn’t get used every hour. Those of us in this office are not doing a job that requires us to print very often at all.

        1. Aunt Margie at Work*

          This is one of those situations where reading AAM lets me see into other offices’ norms.
          Not printing? All day? This blows my mind because I’m in the publishing department. We are about a dozen people who print at least 100 pages a day. And we’ve gone paperless for routing proofs. We used to print copies for anywhere from 1 to 15 reviewers. Now its for internal use. The printer never stops.

          1. Kyrielle*

            I’m in software engineering, as is almost everyone on this floor. Even most of my forms are electronic. I printed one series of screenshots because I was creating a mock-up and needed to cross off details I’d accounted for, once…I printed a form that needed to be handed in hardcopy, once….

            I think that’s actually all I’ve printed in two years here.

            I really, _really_ hope printer usage in OP’s office is closer to mine than yours. To allow the printer room to be used as a lactation or changing room in an office/company/grouping where printouts need to happen often and are often time-sensitive would be ridiculous.

        2. Dan*

          I don’t print often, but when I do, it’s “urgent”. I don’t print stuff for personal use, I print them for discussions with my boss or other people in a meeting.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      the copy room is a pretty poor alternative because 1) it doesn’t have a lock and 2) people need it for other things.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        The lack of a lock on the door wasn’t an issue, until it was. Hopefully the OP’s manager will agree that it’s an easy and necessary fix.

        Short of a dedicated lactation room, EVERY space in an office is space that someone needs to do their job. “Booking” the copy room to pump is no different than “booking” the conference room, if that’s the space they have available.

        1. Dan*

          I’d go for booking the conference room over the printer room in a heartbeat, particularly if there is no lock on any door. I may need last minute access to the copy machine; I never need last minute access to the conference room. And if the conference room is booked, there’s no reason for me to go in there.

          1. Yorick*

            Right, I almost never go into a conference room unless we have a scheduled meeting. I certainly wouldn’t if the door were closed and lights were on.

        2. Yorick*

          I disagree about “booking.” You can actually “book” a conference room so that the schedule shows it is in use. You could use your phone or computer to do that once you went in. The copy room usually doesn’t have that feature.

          1. KR*

            I feel like that’s easy enough to solve with the wonders of modern online calendar technology.

          2. LBK*

            I think Persephone was saying that putting up the Do Not Disturb sign is a form of “booking” the copy room in this office, and therefore you don’t get to just disregard it because you think your need for the room is more important, as is the case with reserving any other room.

    3. Shadow*

      The copy room is really stupid bc it’s one of the few rooms that probably everyone has to use.

  34. Contrarian Annie*

    “He knew what he was doing and did it anyway” = something urgent and unexpected, time critical to a project or similar that means that (in the eyes of the co-worker) the urgency of the work situation trumps the OPs right to privacy. It doesn’t sound like he is being “creepy” particularly but rather, needed the copying equipment in that room and yes there was a “no entry sign” but also, something was actually urgent. He probably didn’t handle that the best way though.

    A printer room with equipment people actually need for carrying out work objectives (especially if you have urgent situations etc) isn’t really a suitable alternative and OP should follow up with the boss from that angle rather than make it about the “intruding co-worker” IMO.

    1. NonnyNon*

      The room is also used for people changing clothes. Without knowing who was in there until he walked in, he could’ve been walking in on someone *in the middle of changing clothes*. I don’t care how urgent something is, I really don’t think that justifies walking into a room where there’s a high likelihood of coworkers being exposed without even knocking.

      I agree that the OP should follow up about seeing if there’s an alternative back-up pumping room. But this absolutely needs to be about the CW as well because he showed an incredible lack of respect for his coworkers’ privacy in this situation.

      1. Contrarian Annie*

        It sounds like the “changing clothes” arrangement (in contrast to the breast pumping one) is sort of an unofficial arrangement that has just evolved and become a de facto “thing”.

        1. NonnyNon*

          Just because it’s unofficial doesn’t mean that Fergus was unaware that people could likely be partially undressed? Even if there’s no official policy he knows what the room is used for- and if he doesn’t because he’s new, he still ignored a “Do Not Enter” sign and walked in anyway which at least merits a conversation from management.

          (Or, if management doesn’t want to deal with this being an issue anymore, they can make an official policy that people not change in the supply room. That doesn’t change the fact that Fergus really doesn’t have an excuse for not even *knocking* before walking it when the sign was put up.)

          1. Contrarian Annie*

            I don’t doubt that he was aware that people could be partially undressed! But (let’s say…) the intruder isn’t a creep or voyeur, s/he really doesn’t care what someone is wearing or not wearing, s/he just has a job to get done with a deadline that’s ticking down and in order to get to meet that deadline s/he needs those documents….S/He won’t even really ‘see’ or consider the undressed person in that situation as it is just irrelevant to getting the job done!

            1. Observer*

              Any person who thinks it’s ok to walk in on someone who may be mostly or partially unclothed because they have work to do (outside of situations where it’s the person’s job to deal with unclothed people, of course) is so badly socialized that they shouldn’t be allowed to work with people. Seriously.

          2. Contrarian Annie*

            Also the “Do Not Enter” sign is unofficial in itself and isn’t provided by Management or Facilities etc.

            1. Bend & Snap*

              Are you just living up to your screen name or do you actually believe what you are writing?

              A DND sign doesn’t need to be officially sanctioned for people to be required to respect it.

              1. Contrarian Annie*

                OK so to make it more explicit… I play devil’s advocate a lot. I like to consider all aspects of a situation, and to challenge people, and think of angles that may not be covered otherwise. And I think that that makes for a more robust (a good thing!) discussion.

                But when I write something here and say something like “is X a possibility?” what I really mean is: I think that X could be a realistic possibility and you (generic you) should consider it. I’m not just putting up “straw man” positions for the sake of argument!

                1. Bend & Snap*

                  I just don’t think there’s any kind of valid rationale or justification for the OP’s coworker’s behavior. There could be all the “reasons” in the world that he did it, but nothing except a fire would trump OP’s entitlement to privacy.

                2. Stellaaaaa*

                  LOL I find myself agreeing with you here. I’m reminded of Eddie Izzard’s “flag” bit. OMG someone put a SIGN on the printer room! That means they have more right to be in the printer room than literally everyone else in that moment!

                3. LBK*

                  Signs having meaning. The only thing that stops you from going into the bathroom or locker room of the opposite gender is a sign on the door that cultural convention tells you means not to enter (much to the chagrin of NC lawmakers). I don’t understand the casual disregard and apparent weird contrarian enjoyment you seem to be implying you’d get out of barging in on a coworker half-naked because you’re too cool to follow anyone else’s signs? I’m really struggling to understand the adversarial attitude towards someone needing privacy.

      2. Contrarian Annie*

        For example we have various bosses’ offices (that may or may not be occupied at various times as the bosses travel a lot etc), meeting rooms, conference suites at my place of work… and if I decided to start going to the gym after work I might try to change clothes in there with a “do not disturb” sign but it wouldn’t have any kind of weight behind it really!

        1. NonnyNon*

          But there is weight behind this. There is the weight of this being an established system *in this particular office*. This wouldn’t fly where *I* work, not at all, but I don’t work where LW does and if this is how her office functions then Fergus should be talked to about breaking protocol even if it’s an unofficial protocol.

          1. Contrarian Annie*

            It’s only an “established system” because people have politely respected it so far, i.e. they are willing to wait (e.g. Oh I need this document but I have 3 hours to submit it so I’ll come back a bit later) or they fear conflict for whatever reason, or they have an alternative they can go to for the same outcome (e.g. this is my local source of paperclips but I can go to the stationery cupboard upstairs instead) but I don’t think it is really an officially established system.

            1. Stellaaaaa*

              Yeah…I’m not a fan of people clinging to systems that have evolved because the powers that be have avoided addressing an issue. Who cares if there’s a system? It only came about because the employer doesn’t want to comply with the law.

            2. Mookie*

              If someone were unfortunate enough to follow the advice you and Stellaaaaaa are peddling, they won’t just be fired, they’ll be arrested. Playing dumb about people’s bodily autonomy is not a legitimate defense in a courtroom. Good luck!

              1. Mookie*

                To be very clear, that “nobody told me one way or the other, no one wrote it down and made it official, you’re not the boss of me so I don’t have to honor the boundaries you set” line is a tactic predators use when trying to establish plausible deniability and provide cover for their harassment and abuse. It’s feeble there, and it’s doubly feeble — and positively shameful — to tout it here.

                1. ChickenSuperhero*

                  Thank you, I knew there was an underlying motivation for that creepy and bizarre line of unreason.

    2. Contrarian Annie*

      (Because I can’t edit the comment) I truly doubt given the information here that he is some kind of “creep” or “voyeur” or whatever. Just mission focused — classic case of “get-it-done-itis” or external pressure. I know there have been times in the past I’ve disregarded the intricacies of a situation to achieve the actual result — I don’t know what I would have done in this situation (I’m female btw) but probably would have knocked on the door and said something like “I’m really sorry I’m going to have to come in anyway because 0f [the urgent XYZ project]”.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        it really doesn’t matter what his motivation/thinking was. He knowingly breached the OP’s privacy in an unacceptable way. End of story.

        1. Contrarian Annie*

          But in a big picture way doesn’t the OPs continued employment depend on the company continuing to do profitable business? And it may well be that the documents were essential to that.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Please stop. This whole crazy what-if parade to find some reason this was A-OK is just nauseating.

            1. Contrarian Annie*

              I’m not saying it was “A-OK” (I think the co-worker was a bit rude not to knock) but based on my own experiences of thing being critically urgent I can see why “get the job done” comes ahead of everything else (the law, what’s polite, decency, etc). But I will bow out now.

              1. Gazebo Slayer*

                If “get the job done” comes ahead of the law and decency for you, you’re going to get in real trouble sometime. “I disregarded the intricacies of the situation because I’m mission-focused” is not going to be a great defense in court or when you’re getting fired. (I really hope you don’t work in an environment where safety is an issue.)

            2. August*

              There’s absolutely no excuse for what he did, but you can have two very different conversations with this guy based on whether you think he’s a perverted voyeur or just a thoughtless jerk. LW is totally entitled to have a stern conversation with him either way, but if she genuinely thought that he burst in on purpose to look at her while she was pumping, then she should absolutely escalate the situation even further than if his motives were purely work-based. I don’t think some discussion as to his motives automatically equals excusing his actions.

          2. SarahKay*

            If it helps, OP states in a comment above that there are no documents being printed in this company that couldn’t have waited until she was done.

            1. Contrarian Annie*

              OK, in that case I admit my reasoning above was heavy handed at least. and not applicable here.

          3. Observer*

            The managers may be idiots. But if they are stupid enough to make the changing / pumping room the place where highly time sensitive documents get printed, to the point that a few minutes will be the make or break factor, then the OP should be looking for a job anyway, because these people are too inept to run a profitable business.

            You must be double jointed, to be able to bend into such pretzels to justify disgusting behavior.

          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            This is not a compelling argument, and it’s a bit of a red herring. If that’s the framework for whether or not to follow office norms/customs, then you can justify doing just about anything regardless of how unlawful, inappropriate, or unacceptable it is.

        2. Contrarian Annie*

          I mean the OPs continued employment along with everyone else in the company, obviously. Not just her specifically!

      2. Moonlight Elantra*

        Except, you have no idea if the document he was retrieving was critical or not. It just as likely could have waited until OP was done.

      3. Observer*

        In many places that would get you fired. And correctly so. Sure, the powers that be shouldn’t put a room that needs to be used for normal work purposes off limits on a fairly regular basis. But they have chosen to do so, and the fact that it’s inconvenient to you doesn’t give you a pass to ignore a basic rule of decent behavior.

      4. Student*

        There’s a law that the company needs to provide this kind of facility to people who need it. There’s also a law that the building needs to have so many fire extinguishers and emergency exits can’t be blocked and the company car can’t be parked in front of fire hydrants.

        You don’t hate on the firefighters by making their lives difficult on purpose – blocking fire exits and parking in front of hydrants – instead, you focus all your “rebellion” on a very vulnerable group that’s been historically targeted for discrimination at work – new mothers.

        That makes you a bully, not a rebel. You want to be a devil’s advocate? The devil’s advocate fights for the weaker side against the Powers That Be – it’s all right there in the name. You’re playing the actual devil instead.

        1. ChickenSuperhero*

          Exactly. Beautifully said. There’s an ugly line of misogyny in Contrarian Anne’s and Stellaaaa’s arguments.

    3. Jessie the First (or second)*

      I agree that it isn’t a suitable alternative. But why place the consequence on the LW – by walking in on her while she is partially naked and pumping, without warning, without knocking, and invading her privacy in such a blatant way? Place the consequence back on the company by telling management that a deadline can’t be met because the printer room is occupied.

      Or, you know, knock on the door.

      1. fposte*

        Not that I’ve done it, but it sounds like you really want to avoid knocks during pumping as well. I would make an office policy about that crystal clear, since I didn’t know that either.

    4. ChickenSuperhero*

      “the urgency of the work situation trumps the OPs right to privacy” … well, laws on hostile work environments, pumping policies, and sexual harassment would disagree with you.

  35. TotesMaGoats*

    Shoot. One of those bathroom door style slide locks probably only costs a couple bucks from the local hardware store and installed with a few screws. A better lock would be…better but it’s not like you are asking them to spend hundreds of dollars.

    Ask. I’d be angry too because WTH.

    1. H.C.*

      Agreed with the relative simpler and cheaper door bolt/latch option – which allows you, or anyone else needing privacy in that room, to secure the door while using the room but doesn’t come with the inconvenience of a door lock (key management, lost keys, etc.)

    2. Janelle*

      We did this at my old office. We had shared men’s and women’s but it was a stall situation. I got tired of men walking in, not their fault just how the bathrooms were built and bought one of those. Solved it cheap and easy.

  36. Parcae*

    One of my coworkers pumped at work until quite recently. We’re an office of ten, so everyone knew about the pumping situation, and she had a private office with a door that she almost never closed for other reasons. No problem, right? Closed door = pumping. According to her, over HALF of our coworkers walked in on her over the course of a year, some more than once! I was and still am baffled. What did they think she was doing in there?

    1. sam*

      Ugh. Back at my old law firm, our office had a general rule that partners could get locks on their offices, but associates couldn’t. One female associate who was back from maternity leave was trying to pump in her office, and she requested a lock for her door and was denied – so to improvise she set up a whole system where she would put a sign on her door, etc. etc. so that the office staff wouldn’t just walk into her office.

      But they would just operate on basically autopilot, and if they had something to deliver, wouldn’t even pay attention to the sign and barge right in. After the second or third time this happened and her complaints to office services got nowhere, the male partners in her group (you know, the people who actually got listened to!), finally went to office services themselves and said that the situation was entirely unacceptable and if she didn’t get a lock on her door THAT DAY, they were going to go to a hardware store to buy a deadbolt and install it themselves.

      She got a lock.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        My nieces rode the bus to school. The route went down a major highway that merged onto a bridge. At least once a week my niece had a story about other drivers beeping and shouting the close calls “Merv” had. When second niece started at that school, all the calls from my sister and the neighborhood moms had gotten no action. The letter my sister wrote to the school and the bus company detailing incidents had no affect.
        After 18 months, Dad got involved. He called the school. Once.
        Must have been a shock to Merv. It wasn’t a shock to my sister. Cuz, well, that’s how the world works sometimes.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It is insane to me how petty law offices are. Seriously, only partners get locks? Because only they’re allowed to have private/non-intrusive time in their offices. Come, on.

        (That frustration is not directed toward you, sam—it’s for the ridiculousness that is the law firm hierarchy.)

        1. sam*

          To be fair to the partners, it wasn’t them. It was some facilities manager who ran the “physical space”, and had decided that partners were more like long term residents, who often brought their own furniture and basically moved in for years, while associates got shuffled around to new offices (and left their jobs on a non-infrequent basis), which would require constant (and money-costing) re-keying of offices.

          So on a “macro” level, having a policy of “partner offices get keys, associate offices don’t” isn’t…the worst. It’s when you can’t then evaluate a special case on an individual basis and make an exception because POLICY that you become a petty tyrant, and the partners have to do that thing (that NO ONE likes) where they painfully remind you who is really in charge.

      3. ChickenSuperhero*

        I’m so glad they stepped in, but how awful that she needed powerful men to champion her cause in order to get legally protected rights. I hope she wrote up that incident in Glassdoor.

    2. Commander Banana*

      People don’t read signs. They really don’t! We hold programs at our headquarters sometimes and put massive signs on our hallway doors because they autolock behind you, and if you aren’t an employee you’ll get locked into the cement stairwell and the only exit is into an alleyway behind the building.

      People STILL walk into the hallway. Ditto for ignoring signs on the refrigerator saying it’s broken, putting money into a vending machine that has an out-of-order sign on it, completely ignoring directional signs at events…people get kind of locked into what they’re doing and they don’t see the signs. It’s entirely possible that some people just have “must talk to Coworker X!” in their brain and barge right in.

      I really hate it when people knock on my closed door. Unless it’s an absofuckinglutely emergency situation, if the door is closed, I do not want to be disturbed.

  37. H.C.*

    This letter reminds me of a horrible nursing “room” at OldJob, which is basically a broom closet with no actual door – just a dollar store shower curtain that velcros to the jamb. Ugh.

      1. Pearly Girl*

        “But no one HAS to respect the arbitrary signs placed on doors by people who carry no authority to direct the comings and goings of coworkers they don’t even know.”

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Some workplaces are so horrible this is the rule of thumb. You wait for your boss to come over and tell you something because you are told repeatedly to disregard anything a peer says.
            Sometimes in these places you can find a work friend and you can team up. In soft whispers you tell each other things so that neither of you get fired today. An unauthorized sign would be an extension of that same idea.

            HOWEVER, I do not see how any of this helps the OP, as OP does not seem to have an oppressive work environment.

  38. Bend & Snap*

    Pumping is the WORST. I had to pump in the NICU with the dad of my baby’s roommate on the other side of a very thin curtain and the whole world walking by. Plus it’s physically not comfortable to sit that way, forget the actual feeling of the pump and total lack of privacy.

    A lock has to be the solution. OP, you don’t want to stress about this to the point that your supply starts to suffer.

  39. Lily in NYC*

    Our former division head used to bang on my coworker’s door when she was pumping and act like there was something urgent he needed. He didn’t; it was just a power play. He ended up getting fired for complaining/gossiping about his EA’s FMLA – I have never worked with anyone who violated as many HR policies as he did.

  40. Sled dog mama*

    Op I’m sorry this happened to you. if you can get employer to install a lock try to get them to put in one of those slides that go on the back of the door.
    While pumping for my first daughter I was walked in on twice with a do not disturb sign and a locked door (in two different rooms). Co-workers just got used to the do not disturb sign being up and din’t see it. Another thing that worked is a do not disturb sign over the door handle if they have to move the sign people will more often stop to think why that sign is there.

  41. Bertha*

    LW, does your employer have more than 50 people? If it does not.. this law may not apply to you. (“An employer that employs less than 50 employees shall not be subject to the requirements of this subsection, if such requirements would impose an undue hardship by causing the employer significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.”) I wrote a paper on this very topic for my master’s degree and I was kind of appalled at how few rights there were for working nursing mothers prior to the ACA, which is when this became law. Women were fired for taking breaks to express milk, and it would go to the courts, and the courts would rule in favor of the employer because there was no explicit law protecting nursing mothers. Argh.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Although, OP, if this is the case – check your state laws. Not many states have additional protections, I don’t think, but a few do. (Oregon, for example.)

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, D.C., Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana (for companies with 25 or more employees), Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia also require that employers designate a (non-bathroom/toilet) location and allow breaks for women to express milk, with various exceptions, of course.

    2. BananaPants*

      Many states had laws on the books before the FLSA changes, including requiring employers of a certain size to provide a private, non-bathroom location to pump. My state had such a law for close to 10 years before I had my first baby – didn’t matter, HR ignored it completely even when I sent them the text of the law. HR Lady insisted that I “had” to have access to hot and cold running water in my pumping location, and therefore only the bathroom would suffice. Gee thanks, HR Lady.

    3. Observer*

      Actually, this is not part of the ACA. And it’s hard to make the case that putting a lock on the door or on the door of another room constitutes a major hardship – even if it ALSO meant adding curtains or blinds to one room with glass walls.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’m confused. From what I understand, the ACA was the first time a federal law was passed requiring break times for mothers who needed to pump, as well as specifications about providing an adequate, non-toilet/bathroom, location. And it did so by amending the FLSA.

        Prior to the ACA, each state had its own requirements and protections (or lack thereof). See Summer S. Hawkins, et al., “Breastfeeding and the Affordable Care Act,” 62 Pediatric Clinics of N. Am. 1071 (2015).

        1. Bertha*

          PCBH, Thank you for the federal clarification. As mentioned I did write a paper on this whole topic, and I didn’t find any info on *federal* protection prior to the ACA.

    4. Callalily*

      This makes me so mad. I was just looking up some information the other day about taking protected time off to care for my father or even just deal with my depression and discovered that I don’t have 90% of the protections I thought I had because I workplace is smaller than 50 people.

      My only actual protection would be for minimum wage or if my boss fired me after explicitly stating it was because I had a vagina.

      1. Small businesses NOT*

        Ya, I really hate small businesses that say “oh, we can’t afford to pay our employees, we can’t afford to comply with the law, etc.” and then act like they’re the sacred cows of india. If small business owners can’t pay a living wage and treat people decently they should get out and find a…JOB.

  42. Blame it on the...*

    I agree that it’s totally unacceptable that someone knowingly walked in on you – especially when it seems from your submission that they didn’t even knock first? In no way am I defending your coworker’s actions, but it’s also really unfair to the rest of your coworkers for your employer to designate an important area like a printer/supply closet for this kind of thing. What about deadlines, pressing assignments or things that pop up that must be addressed immediately? I would demand that they find another space for you.

    1. Janelle*

      Totally agree. If I’m running into a meeting and need a print out what do I do?? Bad choice of location.

  43. Janelle*

    I also have to recommend those bras for pumping mothers. Not sure the name but it’s like a tube top with the two holes the pumps slide through. Covers and allows you to be hands free. Amazing item.

    1. BananaPants*

      Assuming the pump shields are clear, one’s nipples are still on full display.

      I kept a nursing cover in my pump bag for rare occasions when I had to pump in the women’s locker room at our satellite location, or in my car.

      1. ChickenSuperhero*

        Freemie pumping system – the collection cup slides into one’s bra, the tubes snake under one’s shut – highy discreet and fully clothed. Still loud from the pumping machine, but it would probably be discreet enough for a plane.

  44. Kelly*

    If IT/IS can’t determine who it was, ask an admin. As discussed before, they are the NSA of any office.

    OP: I’m sorry that happened. Obviously the setup isn’t working, and I hope it gets resolved ASAP>

  45. Rachael*

    OP, you should not feel embarassed to make sure that your company follows the law. I had to go to my last job’s HR because there was a massage chair in the “wellness room” and people were knocking on the door and expecting an answer when the door was locked. I got a pushy person asking “how much longer?” and chastising me because i was yelling through the door “occupied!”. Best believe that something went out in the next company newletter.

  46. Former Retail Manager*

    While the entire source of this problem is your employer, who absolutely needs to remedy the situation, I have sympathy for your male co-worker. Quite frankly, I don’t think he’s a perv….I think he’s a guy who’s sick of not being able to get his printing when he needs it because the printer room is being used for other uses.

    Between your pumping multiple times per day, which I assume easily totals an hour, and it’s use by others as their dressing room, we’ll assume another 15 mins for that, the guy is probably peeved that he can’t get his stuff and figured he’d just pop in, grab it and go. Also, if your company doesn’t use secure print, and you’re in for 20 mins, how much stuff has printed to that printer in those 20 mins? Where I work, there’s a TON of stuff that prints in 20 mins. And if I don’t get it when it prints, I then must sort out my stuff from other people’s, which takes more of my time. Also, is there any possibility that the “Do Not Enter” sign is ever left on the door when the room is not in use? If so, I could further understand his actions. Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand your embarrassment and anger I think you should speak to both of the white shirt gentlemen and let them know that their actions bothered you and the offender certainly owes you and apology, but I’m just saying that I think that the offender is likely just a pissed off co-worker who wants to get work done who likely would also love for your employer to relocate your pumping room. Honestly, I am female, and I would have pitched a fit the moment I found out that they were making you use the printer room, mostly because of my own inconvenience, and demanded another solution. People need to get work done and you should be able to pump in a place free from intrusion and hopefully tidier than a printer room.

    In the interim, someone above mentioned a doorstop on the inside. Great idea. Or in lieu of that, perhaps sliding a box of copy paper over with your foot so it’s not super easy to burst in. Best of luck!

    1. motherofdragons*

      The LW isn’t always using the printer room, though. Only when she is unable to use her boss’ office. So it doesn’t sound like it’s a situation where the room is occupied for over an hour every single day, and the CW has built up resentment around it as a result. And if this was an honest mistake, like maybe the sign is up all the time and people don’t really have a good way of knowing if it’s legit, he should have knocked first just to check, or he should have immediately found the LW after and offered a profuse apology and explanation. But he didn’t, which is pretty crappy.

      I think you agree with me on these points, but I just want to make sure this is underlined: regardless of how the CW feels about the situation where the printing room is sometimes used for privacy, specifically privacy involving nudity of his colleagues, just walking in when there’s a good chance there’s a semi-naked person in the room is a pretty crappy move.

    2. Observer*

      Pitching a fit to the PTB is fine. And I would back you 100%

      But the idea that walking in on someone in a state of undress is an appropriate response to being inconvenienced is simply bizarre. I expect that from toddlers, not adults. Especially since the OP and all of the other people who use that room don’t have another choice.

      1. Yorick*

        The OP may not have another choice, but people changing in there can certainly change somewhere else.

          1. Jennifer Needs a Thneed*

            Most workplaces have bathrooms. Most people can change clothes in bathrooms.

  47. Nina*

    It will not let me post links, so search for “Master Lock security bar” on Amazon. I’d suggest that in the meantime or in case you are not given a lock.

  48. AJennifer*

    I think an office-wide training session would help here, letting all employees know where they can go for privacy to pump or change into other clothes or whatever, and at the same time letting all employees how to respect that space and making it clear that when the ‘do not disturb’ sign is on the door you don’t disturb. People may not understand this is a matter of law on their own, but you can explain it is and how you want to comply and have everyone cooperate within the space constraints you deal with.

    I know this is a hard problem for small businesses to deal with. They don’t always have space they can dedicate but they DO want to comply with the law. Buy in from the team is essential and the good news is most every employee will buy in once they hear about how this is a lawful and employee friendly policy.

    1. Tiger Snake*

      My auditor experience tells me that a training session and setting the policy won’t help. The policy exists, people know the policy, but the office CULTURE of the place is that the policy should be ignored. You can’t fix culture with a training session.

      If Fergus were the only person who ignores the ‘Do Not Enter’ sign, I’d even say that the culture might be okay, and that its Fergus who isn’t understand said office culture or isn’t a good fit it – so he should be dealt with singularly.

      So while OP is absolutely right to raise high heck about this, as a manager I’d be checking with the people who use it as a changing room to gauge whether this is a once-off issue, or a more pervasive culture problem that needs to be dealt with in different ways (generally starting with what the very top management demonstrate is important and valued in this business).

      1. Tiger Snake*

        I should add that sometimes explaining the law CAN have an impact on this sort of thing, but as part of a package of activities to fix the issue. I couldn’t give you an example of where education alone has been successful for more than a few months.

  49. Lisa*

    Heck I’m the type that would just buy a $5 lock, and bring it with my mini drill to work and install it myself in the printer room.

  50. Software Engineer*

    The other solution could be that if you have ANY conference rooms at all, install locks in one and then if you have a booking system you can book times (so there’s no ‘oh my boss is on a call’ or ‘somebody else needs this room and I’m inconveniencing them’ or whatever.

  51. Barney Stinson*

    This is simple: the private room for pumping should not be in with the copier. With this set up, everyone is put into the potential for conflicts like this (“OMG, the CEO needs this now” vs “OMG, I am entitled to complete privacy for this”). Instead of debating timing and changing rooms and whatever, MOVE THE PRIVATE ROOM AWAY FROM THE COPIER, OR MOVE THE COPIER AWAY FROM THE PRIVATE ROOM. And neither destination should be a bathroom.

    1. kittycritter*

      You are correct, this is the only long term solution that will make everybody happy!

  52. Delightful Daisy*

    Many years ago, I was out of the office when a new colleague started. She was still nursing and therefore needed to pump. Mine was the only office that didn’t have a window so my supervisor told her she could use my office for pumping. Staff were told if the door was closed that they needed to know before walking in. Nobody told me though and so when I returned, I opened my office door and someone that I didn’t know was in my office and pumping. I responded poorly by asking who the heck are you? I was embarrassed both by walking in on her and for my response and apologized profusely. It was awkward for awhile but we laugh about it now. I never made the mistake again though.I think Alison’s response is spot on. I also like the idea another commenter made about someone giving their office up for you to be able to pump.

  53. Noah*

    Wait, so Fergus is going to get in trouble because OP thought he said “I’m sorry” in a manner that suggested he really meant “I totally meant to come in here and see you pumping”? That seems like a huge stretch to me. If there were actual evidence he came in while she was pumping on purpose, but the only evidence we see is that he apologized.

    Really, the breast pumping room needs to not be the room with the printer. That just seems like an intolerable situation, even if there is a lock on the door. It makes no sense to restrict access to the printer for 15-20 minutes several times a day.

    1. kittycritter*

      Right?? I cannot imagine if we only had one accessible printer in my job, and that room with the printer was constantly being locked from anywhere to 1o minutes to an hour several times a day – that would be insanely frustrating! If I had a pressing deadline and I HAD TO get my printout, I may well just say “screw it” and pop in there and grab it! I would be SOOO frustrated if my printer access was continually being denied.

      1. Barry Line*

        Really? If you had reason to believe that a co-worker was in a state of undress, you would say “Screw it!” and open the door anyway?

        I agree that the employer needs to come up with a better solution, but you don’t get to take your frustration out on the co-worker who is at least as much a victim of the crappy policy as you are.

  54. aebhel*

    Oh, god, this was my worst nightmare when I was pumping at work. I also didn’t have access to a private room with an outlet at the time (old building), so we worked out a similar arrangement with one of our storage rooms. Fortunately, all my coworkers were very respectful about it, but in retrospect it was SO anxiety-inducing to not have a lock on the door that I wish I’d at least asked them to put in a hook-and-eye latch in.

    And I’m not even particularly shy about my body (I did actually have a coworker walk in when I was changing in my office one time, and it was a bit awkward but not a big deal) but pumping is a whole ‘nother story.

  55. Clara P.*

    I’d be disturbed as well, but my inclination would be to give the barger the benefit of the doubt. Some folks are totally clueless about pumping and how exposed you are. Others may have the mindset that breastfeeding is totally acceptable in public, therefore pumping must be a similar operation. I’d also be irked on the other end if I was frantically working on deadline and the printer was tied up. in this situation, even if it wasn’t a critical document, next time it could be. Protected health info, or your resignation letter, or a negative evaluation someone’s about to get. Pumping mommies can potentially be nosy nellies too. Plus OP’s back was turned–perhaps he figured nothing visible so no big deal. I pumped for a good year with each of two kids in a shared mothers room. Funny, someone had made the suggestion that we have several chairs in there in case people all had to simultaneously pump. Hahaha, I was like NOPE! In a pinch I’ve pumped in my parked car. Also have in a bathroom during an offsite event. Use the accessible stall, stand as far away from the potty as possible, bag on coat hook, pump hanging in bag. Not ideal but in a pinch, I’d personally take that over an unlocked door. Company needs to find another solution.

  56. Nathaniel*

    Since the law was violated the best thing to do is call the police. File harassment against the employee and the business and contact OSHA as well.

    Alternately, have your attorney craft a cease and desist letter to the employee.

    1. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

      Talk about the nuclear option… Do you honestly think the police will care? I mean, I haven’t read all of the comments so I’m not 100% up-to-date, but the police have murders to solve; they’re not going to care about one lady having the door of a public room opened on her.

  57. Trisha*

    Shouldn’t pump or change in the printer-room. Bottom line. Even if you put a sign up, he’s not obligated to read it or take it into consideration while he’s trying to go through his normal course of business. You’re actually causing delay with his job by occupying a room like a printer room to pump. It’s not his fault if you’re occupying shared office-space for personal use. There isn’t even an argument to be made that he maliciously/intentionally went into the room. It’s more an issue of your organization than his issue. You need a designated area for pumping and people shouldn’t be using the printer-room to change.

  58. Annie*

    Maybe it’s time to move the printer into the hallway and have this room be the dedicated change/pumping room. I’d talk to your boss about that. I wouldn’t want to be walked in on, nor would I like to wait 20-30 minutes to get a document I really need off the printer.

  59. Jennifer Needs a Thneed*

    I’ve read thru a lot of the responses (saving the really big collapsed sections for a treat) and while my anger at the OP’s (and all pumping mothers’) situation burns like the surface of the sun, I haven’t seen this bit mentioned:

    It’s not good for heat-producing machines to be in small rooms that don’t have extra ventilation. This is why computer rooms always have lots of a/c to the point of being chilly. And since the OP didn’t mention being chilly in that room (and because it’s super-common to make this mistake), I doubt this is the case here.

    I think that the printer should come OUT of the room altogether. Supplies can still be stored in there but the heat-producing machine should be in the open area. (Yes, even though it’s noisy.) The the room’s door handle can be replaced with the kind often used on home bathrooms, which can lock from the inside but that lock can be easily opened from the outside if needed, and where just opening the door from the inside unlocks it.

    1. Jennifer Needs a Thneed*

      (And now I see that Annie made the same comment many hours before I did.)

  60. Noobtastic*

    If you talk to Fergus directly, then when he starts to say, “But I REAAALLLLLYYYYY needed those papers off the printer! It was a work emergency!” I recommend telling him, “In that case, KNOCK! Wait for a response. Call out, ‘Sorry, but I really need the papers on the printer. It’s a work emergency,” and maybe I’ll hand them to you. Or at least give me a chance to cover myself before you come and get the work emergency papers off the printer. DO NOT just barge in. And a whispered, ‘sorry’ simply does NOT cut it!”

    If the supervisor talks with Fergus, you can ask him to address the issue of knocking and giving you a chance to respond, either by handing the needed item through the door, or by covering up.

    If they absolutely refuse to install a lock on the door, suggest a mail slot, instead. It makes about as much sense as refusing the lock, but it looks like you’re trying to be cooperative.

    And here’s an idea – move the copier to the hallway.

Comments are closed.