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

Remember the letter-writer whose coworker worked in on her, possibly knowingly, while she was pumping? Here’s the update.

Hello! I wanted to thank you for answering my question and ESPECIALLY thank your readers—it felt so incredible to know that I wasn’t out of line in being mad about what happened, and knowing I had a legion of sympathetic internet people rooting for me made me feel a lot better about approaching my boss.

I went in and talked to my manager two days after my letter ran. I let her know that, unfortunately, I had been walked in on while pumping (seemingly on purpose?) in the supply room, and that because of this, I needed us to reopen the possibility of getting curtains for our small conference room and letting me use that space, like I had suggested when I first came back from leave. She was not nearly as upset about hearing I was walked in on as I think she should have been, which was disappointing. While she did agree that that space wasn’t going to work and that we should get curtains for the small conference room (win for me!), it was disheartening that she didn’t seem to reach this conclusion until after I added on that it was clearly inconvenient for other people as well. It seemed that swayed her more than the fact that I was walked in on!

As we were finishing up, she added “I just want to say, though, that you’re *going* to get walked in on. It’s going to happen. It happened to me at (old law firm), it happened to other women I worked with, it’s just going to happen.” At the time I laughed it off with a “ha ha, yeah, I know people are going to be people” as I left her office, but it was a bummer that she felt like that was an okay thing. I immediately walked over to our office admin and together we got the ball rolling on getting some magnetic curtains, and I was planning on using a rubber door stop (thanks, commenters!) to keep the door closed. I felt good about the solution. I never did find out who walked in on me … but I’m pretty sure I know who it was.

However!! A few days later, my boss called me into her office and let me know that since before I had even come back from leave, she had been arranging to have me transferred to another branch office in our city, as our numbers are really bad and it was either that or lay me off (I’m the most junior position in the office). She was sad to do it, but I appreciate her going through the effort to find me a place instead of just cutting me loose. I realized that this is probably why she was reluctant to make permanent changes to the office to accommodate me—she knew I was leaving soon, anyway.

Today is my last day at this office. I visited the new office a few days ago, and on my tour, my manager-to-be excitedly pointed out their “Quiet Room,” complete with frosted glass, locking door(!), and “occupied” indicator! Ultimately I think this will be a good move and a better environment, for more than just this reason.

{ 184 comments… read them below }

  1. AnotherAlison*

    I was looking forward to an update on this one. I think this is a positive outcome, although a much more dramatic (and inadvertent) solution than anticipated!

    If there is not a way to actually reserve the Quiet Room, see if you can work with them to at minimum put a sign-up sheet on the door or something. Nothing like being about to burst and find that the room is occupied for an hour with someone trying to sleep off a headache.

  2. Marillenbaum*

    Congratulations on your transfer! It sounds like the new place will be an improvement, especially since they have a door that locks. I have to say, though, that it totally stinks your old supervisor thinks getting walked in on is inevitable. It isn’t if you take the required precautions, and just because it happened to her doesn’t mean it should happen.

    1. Friday*

      Right – what a defeatist attitude to take toward something that women are entitled to. I had an almost walk-in and a window washer incident when pumping and if anything, those experiences have me MORE fired up to fight for all women’s right to pumping privacy, not less.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Yes, it’s like she’s seeing it as a “paying your dues”/hazing sort of thing? Like “I did the casting couch to my roles so you should too!” rather than, um, let’s get rid of sexism in Hollywood?

        1. Tuckerman*

          Yup. Or, “I only took a 6 week maternity leave. Why do you think you deserve 12?”

          1. DecorativeCacti*

            We had issues like this come up over bereavement at my office. One employee elected not to take the full allowance but then held it against another employee who did a short time later.

            1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

              My husband had this happen to him. His company had a generous maternity leave that included 3 week “new dad” program for their male employees outside of any maternity leave rules and he took it with our first born. So may people were upset by this! Another male employee (slightly older but with a wife who had recently given birth) actually told my husband that it was a mans duty to provide and implied that my husband was somehow less than because he was taking the time.

              1. DrPeteLoomis*

                Baaaaaarrrrrrffffff. I hate everything about this, including that the new dad leave was only a measly 3 weeks.

              2. Bea*

                LOL WHAT, your husband is providing though…taking a few weeks to provide his new baby and his wife his much needed assistance at home. He’s not quitting his job and riding the rails.

          2. JamieS*

            6 weeks?! I say schedule a C section for Friday after 5, use the weekend to recover and “bond”, then back to work Monday morning. – statement direct from Congress

      2. Jesca*

        Right! If you can’t imagine saying to someone “you will likely be walked in on the toilet” then you shouldn’t say it here. No one should ever just assume that they are going be walked in on while in any position of necessary undress. Bad management on that.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I had a similar thought cross my mind. Until management sets its collective foot down and says, “NOT acceptable under any circumstances” the problem will persist. If management thinks walking in while someone is pumping is BFD, then the employees’ hearts and minds will follow. Am shaking my head.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yes! This was so sad to read. I don’t know if it’s defeatist, or if it’s that the manager went through a similarly humiliating experience, and she’s coping with it by making it seem “normal” to be walked in on. It’s of course not normal and not ok, but oftentimes when people feel beat down by the system, they come up with ways to cope with and justify that beat down. I mostly felt sadness/pity for OP’s manager.

        That said, HOOOOOORAY for the office transfer! What a blessing in disguise!

        1. Jadelyn*

          I think it’s probably the latter – normalizing an experience in order to make it less impactful so she can shrug it off. That, or an old-school “this is how it’s always been, therefore this is how it will always be” attitude.

        2. Important Moi*

          I look at the word choices:

          “She was not nearly as upset about hearing I was walked in on as I think she should have been” – manager’s reaction was not to OP’s liking

          “it was disheartening that she didn’t seem to reach this conclusion”

          “… it was a bummer that she felt like that was an okay thing…” – manager didn’t SAY it was okay, OP is projecting.

          So OP had feelings based on observations, where manager never uttered the specific words OP thought were appropriate.

          And OP closes with getting a transfer versus. layoff, like it’s insignificant.

          Communication styles are different. I don’t think the manager is bad person because she didn’t use words or actions you’d like. I also don’t think she didn’t understand the magnitude of the situation. Transferring OP, rather than laying her off, seems like a kindness on the part of the manager.

          1. LW*

            I definitely viewed it as a kindness! It would have been easier to lay me off and she chose to find a spot for me somewhere else. I didn’t get the *reaction* from her I wanted, but she was willing to give me the *solutions*, which is more important as far as I’m concerned.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I’m a little confused? I don’t think anyone is arguing against the points you’re making (including OP—she seems aware that the transfer was a big deal and kept her from being laid off, and that she’s grateful for it). The “disappointing” and comments re: defeatism are directed to the boss’s statement to OP that OP will be walked in on and should expect to be because the boss had the same experience when she was breastfeeding.

          3. Mookie*

            “It’s going to happen” as a response to someone asserting that an event should never happen, uttered by a person who is, in fact, responsible for ensuring that it does not happen is not a “feeling” based on “word choice.”

    2. CMF*

      I pumped at my previous workplace, in the supply room. That room didn’t have a printer or anything, it literally just had a file cabinet, office supplies and a box of Band-Aids, and a small table and chair for pumping. It had a bolt lock on the door. I was the first person employed there who had come back to work and needed space to pump, so while there was a learning curve, no one ever walked in on me. A few times, in the beginning, people would not see the sign and try to open the door – when met with resistance from the door, they would always immediately apologize for not noticing the sign, promise to look for the sign next time, and then find me later and apologize for real. That happened maybe 3 times in 2 weeks, and then never again.

    3. PlainJane*

      I saw something on FB recently that rang true. A paraphrase: There are 2 kinds of people: Those who had something bad happen to them and therefore want to be sure it doesn’t happen to someone else, and those who think that because something bad happened to them, other people should suck it up and deal with it too.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        Oh that’s a great way of framing it – though I’m not going to simplify it to the ‘two types’ trope myself. Also loving Princess Consuela’s insight that it can be a coping mechanism. One that can be quite harmful, of course…

        I’m still working through some anger around that concept in my own life, so these legitimately help me put that into perspective.

        Thank you both.

    4. Barbara Lander*

      Yes, her attitude is very offensive. She might as well have said, “Yes, men are going to slap you on the ass at work. It happens.”

  3. Friday*

    Three cheers for the new quiet room!! Best of luck to you in your new office and I’m glad your boss/company found a way to keep you on!

  4. VioletEMT*

    I’m sorry your previous manager was unsupportive and seem to just accept that being walked in on while pumping is a cost of doing business if you’re a new mom at work. *eyeroll*

    However, it sounds like overall this will be a good outcome. I’m glad you get to keep your job and that your new location is better. Good luck!

  5. Not a Real Giraffe*

    I realized that this is probably why she was reluctant to make permanent changes to the office to accommodate me—she knew I was leaving soon, anyway.

    This seems short-sighted of your manager, who will presumably encounter this issue again the next time someone returns from maternity leave.

    Glad to hear your new office is a better fit, OP! Thanks for the update.

    1. BadPlanning*

      I was thinking the same thing! Now someone else has to fight this battle, instead of addressing it now and have it as a benefit for the next person (I know benefit isn’t really the right term because it is required).

      1. BadPlanning*

        In case it sounds like anything else — my comment is entirely about the manager/office dropping the ball here.

        1. John B Public*

          It’s a benefit to the company to deal with a logistical issue once rather than half-ass it several times.

          It’s a benefit to all of us now that many battles have already been fought by those that came before us. I think you used benefit appropriately, something can be both a right and a benefit.

    2. HR Recruiter*

      And curtains is too much of an investment for someone leaving? Seems like a really simple solution. I had to be walked in by pretty much everyone before they would let me use the empty office I originally asked to use. ugh why do managers make this more difficult than it needs to be.

  6. Lady Phoenix*

    I think you dodged a bullet with the transfer. Your manager sounds unreaponsive, which could have possibly yielded into more trouble (such as guy SPYING on you while you pump).

    The fact this new place has an ACTUAL private room with a door and lock is a really good thing.

    1. Celebrate Me Scones*

      I agree, the phrase “dodged a bullet” is the first thing that came to my mind upon reading the update, too. I’m sorry to hear your boss was so defeatist about the whole thing, and that she sees being walked in on while pumping a sort of inevitable “dues” that a nursing professional woman must “pay”, rather than a problem to be addressed. No mind, though – this is no longer your problem and I’m glad for you.

  7. Observer*

    It’s good to hear about your new posting. I hope the curtains for the conference room go up anyway – you’re not the only person who’s going to need them, hopefully.

    You might want to point out to your (soon to be former) supervisor that “you’re *going* to get walked in on. It’s going to happen.” is not a legally acceptable response. It’s not appropriate for a LOT of reasons, but her perception has apparently been warped by her bad experiences. However, the legal issue is one that she (and the PTB) should understand is not really negotiable.

    1. Persephoneunderground*

      This x1000- in fact, now that you’ve been transferred, any chance you could call your former manager or her boss and point out the law here? Put it as looking out for the company so they aren’t fined or sued by a future pumping mother for this refusal to comply. And if it’s their boss you talk to, make sure to quote that line “it’s going to happen” and tell them it is illegal and her attitude could get the company in real trouble.
      I think if it’s at all possible you should do this so the next woman doesn’t have to deal with what you did.

  8. Katie the Fed*

    Well, this is a good outcome, although I’d like to throttle your manager for the “you’re GOING to get walked in on” bullshit.

    1. alexa, set timer for ten minutes*

      Seconded. I would have escalated to HR if I’d gotten a response from a boss like that.

    2. TotesMaGoats*

      Yeah, that’s some definite BS. I never got walked in on unless you count the time I had to pump in a multi-stall public restroom at a conference where the extension cord went out of the stall and around a corner. (But props to the conference for helping me out.)

      I’ve even had to go off site to other universities and they provided me locked space.

      Yay for OP moving onto somewhere better.

    3. BethRA*

      Yep. What is it Allison is always saying about how staying in bad workplaces can warp your sense of what’s normal and ok?

    4. JessaB*

      Yeh the next words out of my mouth would have been “No, I’m not because you’re legally required to prevent that. The law is very clear that the space has to be controllably private.”

  9. Bend & Snap*

    Ugh on your manager’s response but yay to the end result! I’m happy that the outcome is keeping your job AND having a more private place to pump.

    A friend at my old company had to go to another, totally unrelated, company in the building and ask to use their conference room for pumping. I always wondered how legal that was. It was inconvenient and embarrassing enough that she stopped before she wanted to.

  10. DecorativeCacti*

    If getting walked in on is such a common occurrence, you would think she would have some ideas for how to prevent it. Doesn’t she especially realize how embarrassing that is?

    You definitely lucked out with the switch, OP.

    1. WG*

      “If getting walked in on is such a common occurrence, you would think she would have some ideas for how to prevent it.”

      Geez, you’d think the boss had never heard about locks. There are inexpensive and easy to install locks that could prevent people from inadvertently (or purposely) walking into the room while pumping is occurring.

      1. JulieBulie*

        The boss’s attitude seems to be that if it was good enough for her, it’s good enough for OP. I wonder if that’s her attitude about the business as well.

        1. Howdy Do*

          I would imagine the boss is slightly older and yeah, she probably did get walked in on because accommodations were even worse then. And so yeah, it could be that shitty thing where a woman is like “well I had it worse then you so suck it up buttercup!” But it’s also possible that since she experienced it herself and didn’t think it was that big of a deal because individual standards of modesty, especially related to breastfeeding and pumping, vary wildly. That’s not exactly fair, since her employee clearly had a different standard and that should have been dealt with more sympathetically.

          BUT I still am only somewhat sympathetic because the fact that she keeps saying it was “on purpose” sounds like she is still really holding it against this co-worker who I would argue was just trying to access work related materials in a usually communal area of the office and her ire should pretty exclusively be towards her boss who promised her privacy in an area where it just couldn’t be guaranteed.

          1. JuniorMinion*

            It also sounds like based on the transfer / potential layoff the OP is the most junior / expendable member of the team – I could see a situation where the person who walked in on her is a star performer / has more of a track record / is more valuable to the business – her boss downplaying it could be a nice way of saying “don’t go after star performer Jim on something that could easily be chalked up as a mistake – you will be the one who ends up looking bad”

            1. JuniorMinion*

              It might have been on purpose, but whoever it is has plausible deniability of that. “accident / didn’t notice the sign because I was distracted” + “needed my documents from the printer so I could better generate value for the business” are a sympathetic standpoint.

              It can be wrong that the OP was walked in on and unwise of her from a career standpoint to make a big to do about it and those things can coexist.

              1. Mookie*

                If the co-worker were simply distracted, had missed the sign, or had forgotten what the room was being used for, they wouldn’t have made a sheepish entrance while simultaneously uttering an excuse for their presence. You don’t pre-emptively excuse yourself when you’re unaware you’re beginning to do doing something objectionable.

                1. JuniorMinion*

                  Totally agree. Just saying the coworker might be more senior / a rockstar. It sounds like LW is very junior and expendable to the point she was about to get laid off. In a he said / she said situation whoever has the most political capital tends to win has been my experience.

                2. Mookie*

                  Fair point, but there was no “he saiding” because no one asked and the manager assumed it was true but that it was inevitable and unimportant. I’m just glad the OP is no longer at this location.

          2. LW*

            I’m actually not mad the the guy who walked in on me–mostly I’m saying “on purpose” because that’s what I believe to be true. I’m mad because it happened at all when I had suggested an extremely workable solution from the start that would have avoided this situation altogether.

            1. Jessica*

              The fact that they half-assed a pumping area where people would need to come in and get their print-outs was really what created that situation. Like, don’t make people have to choose between embarrassing their coworkers and getting their work done. That was bad form on their part. And it doesn’t sound like the manager was terribly fired up about improving any of that. And this location has poor performance metrics? Coincidence? Maybe not.

              1. Jessesgirl72*

                Glad to see I’m not the only one who saw the probable connection between poor performance and the manager. ;)

              2. paul*

                Yeah…the guy deserves some significant blame but my real anger is geared more at managers.

                Policies and procedures should support desired outcomes and good behaviors; theirs don’t.

  11. Erin*

    Your old boss seems strange and misguided, although not a terrible person. Glad she was able to help you transition into another position with private pumping. (Just typed “pumpkin” by accident.) And now you don’t have to see that person that you think was the one who walked in on you!

    I’m a new mom and opted not to breastfeed. This is by far not the only reason why (and yes I did discuss my decision with my health care providers who are on board, if anyone’s concerned), but my office would have been a nightmare to pump in.

    It really would have been a hardship on everyone for me to book our already overbooked conference rooms, offices have no privacy because the walls don’t reach all the way to the ceiling, and we only have two one-seater bathrooms for 30ish people – although legally they’d have to provide something other than a bathroom, anyway.

    Even though it’s the law for employers to accommodate pumping I think so many people don’t realize that sometimes the logistics of that are way more complicated than meets the eye. So glad this worked out for you.

    1. Observer*

      The logistics may be more complicated than people realize. But, by and large, it’s doable if you (the organization) wants to. Where it’s really not doable, it’s often a function of a place that has other issues.

      On another note, I don’t think the walls need to reach the ceiling to be adequate for the purpose. As long as people can’t look over them when they stand up.

      1. BadPlanning*

        The pumping machines that I have encountered make a pretty distinctive “swish swish” sound. I’ve also stayed in an apartment that didn’t walls to the ceiling. If I mixed these together, it is possible the entire office hears the swish of the pump. I wouldn’t like that.

        1. Observer*

          It’s not great. But the issue is not to keep it a deep dark secret that the person is pumping, but to give her a space to do what she needs to do without being interrupted or walked in on when she’s exposed.

          As for anyone else who has in issue with the sound, I don’t have much sympathy. Just as I have zero sympathy with people who freak out at the idea of milk being in the office refrigerator.

          1. Emi.*

            I have a great deal of sympathy for mothers who feel uncomfortable with everyone hearing them pump, though.

            1. oranges & lemons*

              Yeah, and I also have some sympathy for people trying to work nearby who find the sound distracting (not for “pumping is gross” reasons though). Seems like keeping the sound confined would be in everyone’s interest.

              1. Observer*

                Ideally, the office would mute the sounds just to avoid disturbance, sure. But it’s not the same as just being walked in on or a bathroom.

                1. Serin*

                  Right, and you also have the issue of, bluntly, your nipple doing push-ups inside a clear tube. I’m not particularly modest (and was even less so than usual immediately after having a baby) but that’s not something I would have cared to share with my co-workers.

              2. paul*

                Agreed; those machines are *loud*. I could hear my wife’s from halfway across the house when she was pumping. It was loud enough that you couldn’t watch TV in the living room if she was pumping in the dining room. She’d gotten a cheap one though, maybe some models are better.

          2. Hedgehog*

            I feel like it’s not so much the sound of the machine but the sound of the milk hitting the bottle. That’s the part that always makes me feel like a freaking cow.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yeah, this is one of those situations where the law kind of sucks. Observer is right that employers usually aren’t required to block off a room or ensure auditory privacy—the legal requirements focus on visibility and cleanliness (i.e., not a bathroom). It’s imperfect but compliant to use curtains, although I wish that OP’s manager was not so sucky/short-sighted on the pumping privacy issue.

          4. Amy Cakes*

            I have seen all manner of fascinating things in work fridges. In fact, many years ago I would use my lunch breaks to run out to the only compounding pharmacy in the area so I could get my cat’s seizure meds, which had to be stored cold. A nosy person opened it and spilled the fish-flavored liquid everywhere.

    2. Iris Eyes*

      I obviously don’t know the logistics of the situation but if its in a multi-tenant building I wonder if a “common” room that all the businesses could use would be a way to make things happen in an otherwise tricky place.

      1. Hedgehog*

        Interesting idea, but I suspect negotiating for time slots with other moms who are not even coworkers could get ugly.

    3. Government Worker*

      I also found the logistics challenging when I went back to work and stopped pumping/breastfeeding in part due to the headache of it all. I was in a large organization with a well-set-up pumping space, but the key was all the way across the building and the back-and-forth to the key spot and the room and my office added up to like 2-3 city blocks. It wasn’t terrible, as these things go, but I dropped pumping during the workday because it just wasn’t worth it, and then my supply tanked and I stopped nursing soon after.

      That was a summer internship. At my home academic institution, there were several rooms for pumping but the logistics would have been similarly irritating because they were mostly dedicated to specific departments or were otherwise restricted. Around the same time a good friend worked at a big hospital complex with several good pumping rooms that were shared with patients/visitors and couldn’t be reserved, so she ended up waiting outside the door or trooping all over campus looking for a free room every day. Not the most productive use of time for a busy postdoc.

      In short, often even when there’s good space available, it’s a huge hassle.

    4. Slammy*

      Fed is best, and don’t ever let anyone make you feel guilty for using formula. As long as you are feeding your baby, you’re a great mom in my book.

      That said, people shouldn’t be willing to make sacrifices so the employer can get out of a legally require accommodation. Would it require some effort on the part of your office to create a private area? Yes and oh well, that’s the cost of doing business. If an employee was in a wheelchair and needed a ramp to get into the building, no one would bat an eye at that. We do ourselves a disservice by being willing to make sacrifices for an entity.

      1. Government Worker*

        Well, yes and no. It sounds like in this case Erin’s employer would have been willing to comply with the law, but at a cost of inconveniencing her coworkers. She certainly would have had the right to do that, and it would have been crappy of any of those coworkers to make her feel guilty over it, but it’s also totally reasonable for Erin to factor that inconvenience and how it would affect her day to day experience of being in the office and working with her coworkers into her pro vs. con consideration of whether or not to pump at work.

        I mean this as kindly as possible, but the internet is full of comments like yours, where people make statements that boil down to “I have no problem with formula… but here’s how you could have made breastfeeding work, if you’d really wanted to.” And seeing that said over and over in many different ways can be really, really hard on new mothers who are making the (often difficult) choices that are best for themselves and their families. The implication is that the people who make these statements actually do have a problem with formula and that the person they’re talking to should have made different choices, even if that’s not the intended sentiment.

        1. Hedgehog*

          I wouldn’t be so optimistic about employers universally being that accommodating to people with physical disabilities.

        2. Slammy*

          I think that with enough pushback, the employer would have to find a solution that works for everyone. Again, I think that coworker inconvenience wouldn’t be a factor if someone needed the room for insulin injection etc. I think that mothers.arw made to feel like taking a maternity leave, pumping, etc. are “choices” and deserve less accommodation.

          Really fed is best, I just hope that choice is made because it’s best for mom and baby, not because of work considerations.

          1. Emi.*

            I think that mothers.arw made to feel like taking a maternity leave, pumping, etc. are “choices” and deserve less accommodation.

            I think it’s more than that–I think our culture treats having a baby at all as merely another totally optional lifestyle choice, like running marathons or listening to country music or DIYing your kitchen. Why should work accommodate your painting and cabinet installation schedule? If you don’t want to take on the inconvenience yourself, you can just hire a contractor and/or live with your old kitchen. Why should work accommodate your baby? If you don’t want to take on the inconvenience yourself, you can just go on birth control and/or get an abortion. Most people won’t say that straight out, but I think it’s there, under the surface, and growing.

            1. Overeducated*

              Some people have said that to me outright as an argument against paid maternity leave! “Why should work pay for your lifestyle choice to have a baby if it doesn’t pay for my lifestyle choice to go ski for 12 weeks too?” It’s just infuriating that they don’t see any difference.

            2. Slammy*

              Agreed 100% that that attitude comes from many people, and like you said, they won’t admit it but it’s there. I guess that’s why I am so aggressive about protecting my rights as a working mom, I feel like I am constantly on the defensive.

          2. Us, Too*

            “Really fed is best, I just hope that choice is made because it’s best for mom and baby, not because of work considerations.”

            I see variants of “best for mom and baby” all the time. I’m not picking on you particularly, but since I saw you say it… :)

            Thinking of this as “best for mom and baby” is part of the problem. Because that’s not the calculus that most working moms are actually doing. And, I would argue, it’s not the right calculus.

            The calculus I do as a working mom is to try to optimize for and balance more than just my role as mother and my youngest infant. I need to consider the needs of my husband, for example, and our older child as well. And MY needs, not just as a mom but as a wife, friend, daughter, sister and human being who serves roles other than being a mother.

            In any event, I can’t reasonably see how “work considerations” wouldn’t reasonably play into a working mom’s determination of what is overall best. Not only do I find work to be a meaningful intellectual and personal outlet, but it supports my family. Good luck feeding that baby if you have no money. :)

            And this goes beyond work as well. When I had my second child, my first child was still very young. He had needs as well. And, like it or not, each instant that you spend with a new baby you are NOT devoting to your other kid. And when my mother had a serious medical problem I had to decide whether to take off time from my brand new job and leave my toddler and baby behind to travel cross country to go help her after surgery. Is this best for my kids? Probably not. Is it maybe the right thing? I have no clue – I’m winging it here, people!

            Being a person is about making choices and I embrace that. But my choice isn’t “mom and baby”. (BTW, it’s fascinating to me that dad is almost always, achingly, left out of this equation.)

            1. Kyrielle*

              Interesting. I didn’t read this as what is best for “mom and baby” but what is best for “mom” and “baby”. That is, considerations around breast-feeding accommodate their two interests…which as you note, _also_ include their interests in the rest of their family, the mom’s interest in her job, etc.

              But I do see an awful lot of “I need this job, and I need to get along, so I won’t enforce my legal rights _even though_ it is otherwise what’s best for me and my kid and my family in my mind, because that would make things hard” – and that may be true! And it may be a reasonable decision for that mom! And it’s totally wrong of the employer to actually put them in that position for a heartbeat, ethically (IMO) and legally.

              But, “Pumping is horrible and it doesn’t work well for me and I cannot do this”? Completely reasonable. “Baby has allergies and does well on a hypoallergenic formula and I don’t want to restrict my diet”? Completely reasonable. “I don’t respond well to a pump” and “I don’t want to spend more time doing that and be away from my baby longer” and “I just do not want to”? All completely reasonable.

              And, IF the employer is imperfect and the woman would pay a penalty for enforcing her rights, I do not in the least judge the woman for making that choice. Because there’s the way I think things should be, but there’s also the way things are, and no one has a magic wand that makes things *poof* ideal.

              But I judge the employer, where they don’t follow the law or seem like they might penalize someone for making them follow the law, I judge them a lot.

              As a society, I think we should do everything we reasonably can to make breastfeeding possible for all the mothers who want to choose to do it.

              As a society, I also think we should stop crapping on new mothers for their choices in this regard – whether they’re driven by less-than-ideal societal situations, or other realities. There are lots of reasons to choose formula, and judging someone for that choice is horrid, IMO.

      2. Overeducated*

        Sometimes there are only so many battles a new parent can fight, just getting through the day and night is tough at first and if you don’t feel secure at work it may not be worth the risk of insisting on a nicer space over “I can make this work.” I would say employers shouldn’t make people feel pressured to make sacrifices, not that people shouldn’t give in to that pressure.

    5. J.B.*

      I’m sorry if anyone has ever given you grief over your personal decision to use formula.

    6. Malibu Stacey*

      “I think so many people don’t realize that sometimes the logistics of that are way more complicated than meets the eye.”

      I mean, yes, that’s true. It is also really complicated to change traditional bathroom stalls to have handicapped accommodations but it’s the law and a good business decision.

      1. Elfie*

        Agreed, but in the UK, a multi-national, billion-pound employer cannot be forced to install a lift between two floors, because legally that’s unreasonable since the office was only recently renovated. For a disabled employee. When the lift was supposed to have been installed originally, but then the design plans got changed (probably due to lack of money).

        If it’s unreasonable to expect a huge, profitable company to install a lift, what hope do employees of other, smaller, less profitable (billion pound per annum profits!!!!) companies have that their needs will be met? Ask me how I know.

        None of which is helpful to the OP, of course. Just pointing out that just because something is mandated by law, doesn’t always mean it gets done.

  12. Here we go again*

    I feel like women are their own worst critics when it comes to a lot of things (maybe men too, but as a woman, I just don’t notice it as much)… “Oh, it’s happened to me too and I survived, so you will too.” I wish we focused more on standing up for each other instead of accepting this.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Right on.

      I will say though, the times I have seen this it has been from a war-weary boss. A boss that is tired of fighting over everything. This is a boss who cannot find adequate words to motivate TPTB to change what they are doing. I’m not saying it’s right, because it’s not. But sometimes this is why it happens.

      I remember putting up a real fuss over a health and safety issue that easily could have left a dozen or more people dead. It wasn’t until I got reeeeallly angry that someone did something about it. I don’t recommend getting really angry. But sometimes bosses have to hear it over and over before change happens.

  13. Lissa*

    It sounds like manager herself got walked in on, and maybe she’s one of those people with like, no embarrassment/awkwardness buttons or something, so she has a hard time understanding why others would be bothered. This can make it even *harder* to argue with somebody, in my experience. It’s one thing to tell someone “look, you haven’t had this experience, but it’s actually really unacceptable when it happens and made me feel X and Y”, but when the other person is like “yeah, actually I did experience and it didn’t bother me” it can make you feel like *you* are the one being unusual/sensitive. It’s one of the reasons why I really really dislike when people say “obviously you’ve never experienced X, or you wouldn’t say that.” Sometimes people have, and respond differently. (my own personal experience with this is women who aren’t bothered by catcalling and don’t understand why any woman would be.)

    1. Not Allison*

      To me, it sounded like “well it happened to me, you’re not special. I had no extra accommodations, so your expectations are unreasonable.” It’s a certain old-school feminism wave of “we didn’t have it smooth, we fought for what we have, you should too.”

      1. Aurion*

        You would think Old Manager would understand that fighting was exactly what the OP was doing.

      2. Mookie*

        Except the LW was fighting. She was fighting her manager, who was refusing to do her job. Yikes to this manager. Just… yikes with that bootstrap, obstructionist attitude.

    2. Howdy Do*

      Indeed, I suspect that she just didn’t think it was that big of a deal and thinks the LW is overreacting (with maybe a touch of a “I had it worse, so be happy we’re doing anything!” old school women not helping women in the workplace BS.) I also wonder if there was a little bit of miscommunication- the LW clearly desired complete privacy and the boss (we now learn) doesn’t believe that is possible. So when she offered the LW a communal work area to be a pumping space, it makes me think that she never really thought it was going to be totally private therefore she wasn’t totally shocked someone walked in, which would help explain why she wasn’t that upset that someone did.

      It’s funny to think that maybe a male boss (or a female boss without kids) would have been more sensitive about it since they don’t have any personal experience with it and would be taking all their cues from the LW.

    3. LBK*

      I read it as more that she had just resigned herself to it happening rather than her not being embarrassed by it – that she basically got desensitized to it because it was happening too often for her to continue to be shocked and angry anymore.

      It’s an interesting comment in juxtaposition to the discussion that’s happening on the other post about Tinder messages and what your expectations should be. Is there a tipping point at which something doesn’t exactly become acceptable, but rather you no longer want to expend the emotional energy to be upset about it, so you just let it go even if you shouldn’t have to?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I think there is a tipping point.
        I took over a supervisory position where I could see at least 50 recurring problems. I was certain that I would find more as I peeled back the layers of problems.
        I was overwhelmed. Then I decided that I would tackle several small problems each day and I would set weekly goals on fixing some recurring problems. Some of my weekly goals stretched into months. It was exhausting the amount of arguing/explaining that went into all of it. Yes, things went to the back burner. I let things go that if I had the energy/time I would have dealt with the issue.

        That said, in OP’s story is one of those situations that requires immediate attention. OP is not complaining because the copier ran out of staples and she had to hand staple everything. This is not a small problem, it’s a serious problem. The boss was very unprofessional in not backing up OP.

      2. Lissa*

        Yeah, I think there’s definitely a tipping point – but I also think people can be very different in what upsets them or bothers them. Some people really don’t mind being seen topless, others are horrified by the thought, Etc…I think it’s very common to assume that because *we* are shocked and horrified by something, everyone would “naturally” be but I find that isn’t always the case, so it’s quite possible the manager really did see getting walked in on in the same way that I might be annoyed if someone didn’t change the paper towel or something, as opposed to being personally really upset.

  14. Emily*

    Awesome! That is so great that you’re going to a place with much better accommodations.

    Thanks for the update!

  15. Jessie the First (or second)*

    *eyeroll at boss* – she is so convinced that you are going to get walked in on and that it is totally unavoidable because as a society, we have not figured out how to have rooms that cannot be entered randomly by outsiders. As you can imagine, this causes all sorts of problems in all walks of life. Dressing rooms at stores, for example, and bathroom stalls – my, those are a nightmare, with people regularly just popping on in to a fully occupied stall.
    I really hope that one day we invent locks and finally solve this terrible problem.

  16. not a paralegal*

    The manager wasn’t as bad as everyone made her out to be. Would be interesting to know how OP and others feel about expecting coworkers to take up the slack so parents can leave early or get priority for holiday schedules.

    1. Observer*

      Seriously?! You really don’t see the difference between having a place to pump and having people take up the slack when you can’t do your work?

      I’m honestly having a hard time responding in a manner consistent with the guidelines for this site, that’s how outrageous I consider the comparison.

    2. Jaguar*

      I tend to fall on the side of yes, parents should get priority treatment for those things (I’m not a parent), but the consensus of this site tends to disagree with me on that.

      Why do you ask, though? I don’t see the comparable to this situation.

      1. Super Anon for This*

        The disagreement about giving parents priority over leaving early or holiday schedules is that it implies that single or childless people don’t matter. That they don’t have family they would like to spend the holidays with, or life stuff that means they need to leave early.

        1. MuseumChick*

          This. I have to travel a long way to see my family who I only get to see once or twice a year. Whereas parents get to see their child every day. So why should I consistently loose a major holiday with my family just because I chose to not have children?

        2. paul*

          I’m a parent of two; both my spouse and I work.

          I’ve had to call in sick a few times, and I’ve had to arrange alternate child care on days the day care is closed but we’re not.

          I think it’s reasonable to acknowledge and understand that sometimes shit happens and a parent will leave to deal with it (like when my older get had to get taken to the hospital from day care a few years ago–he tripped, fell, hit his head bad), don’t get me wrong there….but the idea that we should get automatic priority for holidays and weekends? Hell no. That’s a great way to breed resentment among everyone without kids. My childless coworkers *also* have family and friends they would like to see, and things they’d like to do. They matter too.

          It’s also unreasonable to just expect, say, that a parent will work fewer hours with no penalties week in and out; sorry, but my coworkers shouldn’t always be picking up my slack. I was hired to do a job, they were hired to do a job, we should both do our jobs. Some coverage and backup is essential, but if they’re doing their job and 1/3 of mine, they’re getting screwed.

    3. Carla*

      A woman having a private place so that she can take a handful of minutes to pump isn’t special treatment and it doesn’t require any of the woman’s coworkers to do anything except stay out of a room for a short time.

      1. Aurion*

        Also, as far as we can tell it is not affecting OP’s work output nor that of her colleagues. And the inconvenience of losing access to the printer can be blamed on management and their inability to install curtains and a lock on a conference room.

        OP’s workplace was failing legal requirements. I’m really baffled at how this comparison is being drawn.

    4. SeattleNerd*

      As Observer noted, your comparison is not at all relevant. And you don’t even know that this is an issue in OP’s workplace.

    5. Jubilance*

      What does this have to do with the original letter or the update, which never mentioned anything about her coworkers picking up the slack or the OP leaving early?

    6. Project Mangler*

      Not at all relevant, really, but everyone else already said that.

      Here’s another point to consider: having your career completely dead-end after you have a baby because people assume you’re not available or not up to a particular challenge. It cuts both ways.

    7. Jessesgirl72*

      Even if this is all true (which is a stretch and you’re obviously trolling) the Manager is still legally required to provide nursing mothers with a room that is not a restroom, where they can pump without being interrupted.

    8. Stellaaaaa*

      How do your coworkers feel about picking up your slack while you wrote that comment?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Hey, come on, don’t go there with people, even with this kind of provocation. Lots of people here are in other time zones across the world, or don’t work 9-5 jobs, or work part-time, or so forth.

    9. Anonymous 40*

      If this is the situation your employer has created and allowed to continue, don’t blame nursing mothers or parents in general for the organization’s shortcomings.

    10. not a paralegal*

      My apologies, let me try again.

      The manager didn’t fail as badly as everyone is making her out to be. Disappointing yes, but she didn’t completely fail. A remedy was provided per the law, it just wasn’t perfect and there was a business reason for that. The reactions to the manager are similar to expecting coworkers to accept they won’t have good holiday schedules or leaving early without consequences: parents have priority regardless of other managerial responsibilities or holidays with non-parenting family. Which does explain most of the responses to my post.

      Yes, parents, especially moms, gets dead ended after having a family. But since I made the error of derailing, so we’ll just have to wait for a related letter.

      “it doesn’t require any of the woman’s coworkers to do anything except stay out of a room for a short time.”
      Having to stay out of a room you need to get to does require OP’s coworkers to do something: staying out of the room they need to get to.

      “the inconvenience of losing access to the printer can be blamed on management and their inability to install curtains and a lock on a conference room.”
      This would have more punch if OP hadn’t told us her branch wasn’t doing well and she was first on the let-go list.

      “If this is the situation your employer has created and allowed to continue, don’t blame nursing mothers or parents in general for the organization’s shortcomings.”
      So it’s an employer’s fault for accomodating parents? Just…wow.

      “How do your coworkers feel about picking up your slack while you wrote that comment?”
      I thought everyone post when they have free time. But looks like that’s just me.

      Nursing is a natural process, so I don’t get the naysayers. Likewise, I don’t get the brouhaha over this by yaysayers. It happens in public places because there’s simply no other option, so get over it, get done is what I say to each side, respectively. I honestly believe 99.99% of the time the other person was equally mortified and embarrassed at walking in on a nursing mom, that no ill intent was meant. But again, that’s just me.

      Thank you to the commenters who understood my poorly written post.

      1. Observer*

        . A remedy was provided per the law, it just wasn’t perfect and there was a business reason for that.
        No and no.

        1. The law requires that the place provided to the mother is free of intrusion. This place is NOT free of intrusion and the manager thinks it’s ok!

        2. There is no legitimate business reason for there not to have been either a lock on the door of the original room, or curtains for the conference room. These are both simple and inexpensive solutions.

        You again: staying out of the room they need to get to.
        Are you trolling? Are you really comparing “picking up the slack” – something you have ZERO evidence btw – of to waiting short while to pick up a document that is not urgent? (The OP in the original letter was very explicit about that.)

        The absurdity (to be extremely kind) of repeatedly making these inane and utterly inaccurate comparisons really speaks to the outrageousness of the position you are trying to defend. You need to pretend that people are being abused in order to defend the manager’s failure to basically follow the law.

        I’m not going to go through the rest of thepost point by point, because it’s more of the same. Don’t expect to get much respect, as this type of argumentation is worthy of that.

        1. not a paralegal*

          1. “This place is NOT free of intrusion and the manager thinks it’s ok!”
          The manager offered her office with the supply room as backup. After OP reported The Incident to her, she approved the curtains. What the manager thought isn’t the same as what she actually did. Unless you’re an advocate of thought policing.

          2. The supply room was working out until it didn’t. Curtains were tried next. So yes, the manager did use simple and inexpensive solutions.

          3. “Are you really comparing ‘picking up the slack’ – something you have ZERO evidence btw – of to waiting short while to pick up a document that is not urgent?”
          No, my point is staying out of a room you need to get to = having to do something.

          4. The absurdity of making these inane and utterly inaccurate (to be extremely kind) interpretation of my comments really speaks to the overwrought position you put yourself in. You need to pretend that I’m trolling in order to ignore my point that the reactions to the manager highlights the priority parents have at work with their coworkers having to lump it while ignoring the manager did follow the law.

          5. What respect I might or might not get from others is their business. But thank you for your concern.

          1. Observer*

            1. No thought policing – the manager explicitly said that it’s ok for there to be intrusions.

            2. No, the manager didn’t. The manager didn’t approve the curtains till after it was explicitly proven that the intrusions were happening – even though having a lock is generally considered the only reliable way to keep intrusions from happening. There is no legitimate reason for that kind of foot dragging.

            3. The point you claim to be making doesn’t come close to the comparison you make. Neither does having to wait to pick up something non-urgent qualify as having to “do something.” Unless waiting your turn qualifies as having to “do something”.

            4. Nice try at flipping what I said. It doesn’t work though, because what you wrote is in full view and doesn’t need my interpretation.

      2. Mookie*

        “the inconvenience of losing access to the printer can be blamed on management and their inability to install curtains and a lock on a conference room.”
        This would have more punch if OP hadn’t told us her branch wasn’t doing well and she was first on the let-go list.

        I literally don’t understand this non-sequitur. Instead of assigning us work for future monologues you’d like us to read, can you explain what you mean here?

        1. not a paralegal*

          OP provided the additional info as possible reasons why no lock or curtains were installed in the first place. So while many still blamed management, I just think the additional info lowers the level of “blame” on management.

          Just a suggestion: in the future, you might try ignoring “monologues” instead of giving yourself more “work”.

          1. Observer*

            No, the OP did not give any reason why the office did not fulfill their legal obligations – the cost of what they should have done to start with is way to low to justify failing to do so because of poor numbers.

  17. Susan the BA*

    Ugh, what a weird fraternity hazing approach to this. “I had to suffer so YOU have to suffer too.” I know that women managers who come up through male-dominated fields/organizations sometimes have limited political capital to pave the way for others but she could have at least been more sympathetic.

    1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      Your second sentence exactly describes my impression of some women in the legal profession. At least visibly, the legal profession has become very open to women in the last couple of decades, but I think people don’t realize how recent this change is (or how far we still have to go, but that’s another post). When my parents’ generation was getting established in the 70s and 80s, law schools didn’t always have women’s restrooms, women often weren’t allowed to wear pants, no one blinked at firing or sidelining a woman for becoming pregnant, and women were openly ridiculed for taking on “men’s jobs.” I think that going through this really hardened/jaded a certain percentage of women to the point that they are really incapable of seeing the legitimacy of women’s complaints now. It’s not fair or ideal, but it does exist.

      (Caveat to say no, not all women are like this, yes, these things still happen sometimes, yes, sometimes young women are like this as well, and yes, the manager was still in the wrong.)

  18. not really a lurker anymore*

    I got walked in on several times. WITH THE DAMN DOOR LOCKED and with a note on the door. Because maintenance wanted to empty the trash cans. I finally made sure to stick the note over the keyhole. And even then I got walked in on so if I heard someone rattling at the door, I’d call out.

    1. Rainy, PI*

      Many years ago when I was a wee undergrad with a job in my department, the only washroom on my department office floor was a single-stall, and there was a grad student in a department that shared our building who would deliberately leave the door unlocked so that people would walk in on him.

      I thought it was just me until I mentioned something to another woman who worked on our floor about “that guy who doesn’t lock the bathroom door” and she said “OMG! YOU TOO?!” We asked every other woman who worked in the building if she’d walked in on him, and it turned out that the only women who hadn’t seen his dick were the ones who exclusively used the basement washrooms. We reported him to the grad coordinator for his department.

  19. Gloucesterina*

    Congratulations on your transfer to a more functional office!

    This all makes me think of the study out of the Wharton School that suggested that people are (perhaps surprisingly) LESS likely to show compassion if they are hearing from another person about a particular hardship that they themselves have experienced in the past.

  20. JuniorMinion*

    So I kind of have a little bit of a different take on this. Perhaps the manager was already expending her available political capital on getting the OP transferred (as opposed to laid off), and tried to downplay the pumping space issue / have it fly under the radar (curtains etc.) so OP wouldn’t be seen complaining to higher level people and having their reaction be something along the lines of “WTH, why is OP complaining about this after we pulled strings so she didn’t lose her job – if she doesn’t like it maybe she’d prefer being laid off?”

    Not saying OP wanting a private space wasn’t justified, just that the timing may have been inopportune for her to raise it given the things going on in the background that she couldn’t have known.

    1. bossy*

      I also thought that maybe the boss just said something stupid in her need to NOT say “You’ll be transferring out soon anyway.”, but I think your point about political capital is spot on.

    2. Former Retail Manager*

      Although I concur with another commenter below and find the timing of OP’s transfer a bit curious, I suppose that if the “layoff” bit is actually legit, this is another very viable possibility and I’d have probably done the same thing as the manager if I were trying to save someone’s job.

    3. Observer*

      Eh. If that’s what was going on she could have just as easily skipped the “you WILL be walked in one” comment.

    4. BananaPants*

      I agree. In retrospect it’s not surprising that the manager wasn’t willing to make major changes to the office setup, knowing that OP would be changing to a different work site in the very near future.

    5. Mookie*

      But the problem will still be there even if the OP isn’t, unless they think they’ll never have another employee who needs to pump at work. Just insinuating that that is the case makes them look terrible, like accommodations are “gifts” and “favors,” requiring capital, rather than obligations they’re expected to provide everyone, even people who might be leaving soon. “Downplaying” the protection of people’s rights in order not to anger or bore higher-ups is terrifying to me.

  21. HisGirlFriday*

    This original post made me see red. I am still pumping (DD will be one in a month), but when I first returned to work our now-former receptionist took a phone call for me and said, ‘Oh, HisGirl isn’t available. She’s pumping breast milk. It takes her forever, too, I don’t know what’s wrong with her.’

    Because the Karma Fairy is apparently also a nursing mother, the person she said this to happened to be an attorney, who promptly said, ‘Oh, well, in that case, can I speak to Grand Boss?’ He was duly transferred, and when Grand Boss picked up the phone, he very calmly said to her, ‘I called to speak to HisGirl on an unrelated matter, but I’m now going to speak to you about the enormous problem you have on your hands.’

    FWIW, that behavior was a contributing factor to the reason said receptionist is a ‘now-former’ employee.

    Grand Boss has been nothing but accommodating about my need to pump, and has gone above and beyond what’s necessary legally to make sure I am comfortable and have privacy.

    It’s not ‘inevitable’ you’re going to get walked in on if your employer puts proper controls in place.

    1. Southern Ladybug*

      Bless the karma fairy. I have a feeling you dealt with more from that receptionist.

      OP – I’m glad you have a better situation now. For what it’s worth, I think her “it happened to me, so get over it” attitude is horrible.

      1. Secret*

        That seems to be a thing on here for people to cheer for people to be fired for what could possibly be things that they didn’t know were problematic and should be coached on.

        That being said, hope they have more insight on their error to not do it again in the next place.

        1. knitcrazybooknut*

          I think the applause is more for the idea that someone stood up for HisGirlFriday. As they said, it was a contributing factor. It’s nice to see someone held to a standard in kindness to others.

  22. Jessesgirl72*

    “That’s funny, the law requires that you provide a place for women to pump where they won’t be interrupted. ”

    It’s just as well, OP, that you were transferred and don’t have to deal with this manager anymore. I might let HR know of her response to your complaint, regardless of your new and better office.

    1. fposte*

      Non-exempt women, anyway; exempt women aren’t covered by FLSA, which is what provides that right.

      1. Stephanie the Great*

        What??? That is entirely inaccurate. The only provision an exempt employee isn’t covered by in the FLSA is the overtime pay provision.

        1. fposte*

          From the DOL: “The federal law provides that employees who work for employers covered by the FLSA and are not exempt from section 7, which sets forth the FLSA’s overtime pay requirements, are entitled to breaks to express milk. While employers are not required under the FLSA to provide breaks to nursing mothers who are exempt from the requirements of section 7, they may be obligated to provide such breaks under State laws. The Department encourages employers to provide breaks to all nursing mothers regardless of their status under the FLSA.”

          1. Stephanie the Great*

            Oh gosh, I didn’t realize the requirement was shoe-horned into Section 7. That is… incredibly shitty.

            1. fposte*

              There’s even wiggle room for businesses under 50 employees not to comply for covered employees if it’s an “undue hardship.”

          2. Jessesgirl72*

            I would posit that either the OP is non-exempt, or because they were already providing her with a space, they don’t realize that exclusion is there anymore than most of the rest of us did until now.

            It really was a bad writing of the law, because certainly the need to provide the breaks for non-exempt women (exempt presumably can make up the work in the usual unpaid overtime) is a separate issue from needing to provide the private space to pump.

            And it may be a moot point soon, regardless.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, it’s quite likely the OP is non-exempt. But, as you say, a lot of people don’t realize that a lot of women’s right to pump isn’t legally protected, and I thought this would be a relevant post to mention that.

        2. BananaPants*

          Nope. As an exempt employee, my employer was not required to provide me with any accommodations to pump at work. The working/breastfeeding/pumping provisions in the FLSA apply only to non-exempt employees.

          I did have state law in my favor, but that didn’t stop me from being relegated to pumping in a bathroom for 9 freaking months with my first baby.

  23. Claire Underwood*

    Does anyone else question the timing of the transfer? The whole “I was working on a transfer for you anyway before any of this happened” seems like a super thin excuse to me (especially since it came days after the initial conversation with the manager)… I wonder if the transfer is actually reactionary based on the employee bringing up a legitimate grievance about the work environment. The timing just seems too coincidental to me. Anyone else?

    I think it worked out for the best, the timing just seems off to me (unless there is something I am missing here.)

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      I thought the same thing, but it’ll always be conjecture, I suppose. When I was non-govt, people who were perceived to be “problem people” rightly or wrongly, were typically very promptly transferred, typically under the guise of being needed elsewhere due to their skills/staff at their particular location was being downsized/more convenient commute for them/etc. Whatever would appeal to them and not alert them that they were being moved for other reasons was what was used. Regardless, in this case, I think it is probably the best option for all parties. Hope OP enjoys her new assignment.

    2. LW*

      If I didn’t know my former manager I’d have thought the same, but she’s not the type to do this. I honestly don’t think her response was malicious in any way, I just think her thinking on the situation is a bit warped. She was ultimately a great manager, this issue notwithstanding.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        And being there, you would know whether the office numbers were really that bad and you know you were the most Jr.

    3. JuniorMinion*

      I guess I just don’t understand in this case why the manager would fight for a transfer vs. laying the LW off as it sounds like the manager had good reason / justification to do so (low revenue + most junior / expendable employee).

      I don’t know that grievances apply unless it is a unionized environment. I think in normal corporate as long as the business justification / you aren’t clearly laying off a member of a protected class for being a member of that class (IANAL so check me here) is there LW’s situation wouldn’t matter.

      Anecdotally I am in oil and gas and I know a number of people who were laid off while on maternity leave. As long as there’s business justification / you aren’t clearly targeting people who need a certain type of accommodation you are in the clear to do so.

      1. Claire Underwood*

        In my (perhaps super-cynical) reading of this I would explain the “I really fought for you not to get laid off” etc. as posturing (ie: there was never any real threat of a layoff; the manager just wanted to make the transfer the more palatable of the two “options” presented to the OP.) This would leave the OP thankful to have a job at all, rather than wondering if the transfer was related to her valid complaint (even though in this scenario a layoff was never a true option – the transfer is just to get rid of a “problem” employee.)

        It sounds like the OP doesn’t believe this is the case – which is fantastic – that was just my first reading of the situation, assuming the very worst about the manager.

        I was using “grievance” here in the more general sense of the word to mean a complaint, rather than in the union-specific definition of the word.

        Glad this all worked out for the best, OP!

    4. Beezus*

      Maybe it’s just the companies I’ve worked for, but I can’t imagine a transfer like that taking a few days to arrange. Everything I’ve seen takes weeks. I assumed it was truly a coincidence, although the boss made the awkward timing more awkward by referencing it.

  24. Cucumberzucchini*

    I know it’s hard in the moment to stand your ground especially with someone with authority over you. One of the things I’ve really learned over the years of reading this blog is that you can be firm without being rude. I’ve been incorporating that technique with great results in my day-to-day life. I wish you had been able to tell your manager that you don’t think it’s acceptable to just accept being walked in especially when there are reasonable preventatives. And that you also need her to take the man who seemed to purposefully walk in on you more seriously. You don’t have to agree with someone’s statement just because it’s uncomfortable to correct them or stand your ground. I know it can be hard in the moment to come up with something professional to say that still maintains your argument. It’s okay to not respond at all to a statement like that and circle back to it when you have a chance to consider your wording.

    I know you’re leaving for a new office and grateful to have been laid off. But if this is a big enough company to have multiple offices an HR, I might follow-up with HR still about the man that walked in on you and the law in regards providing a place with a locking door for pumping.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I have done that circle back thing a few times. To reopen, I start with, “I went home last night and really thought about what you said when you said [blah, blah, blah]. I am still concerned and here is why [explanation].”

      I use the time lag to show that I really thought about what the boss had said on the matter. I also may have done a little reading/research to back up what I want to present.

  25. Marcy*

    A locking door is key. While your boss’s attitude is disheartening, maybe she’s just someone so mired in toxicity she doesn’t even see how bizarre her attitude is. When I was pumping, I had a locking door and a sign on my personal office. Nevertheless, people would knock and–upon getting no response–start attempting to open my locked door, rattling the doorknob and shaking the doorframe and all. They must have been able to hear the sound of the pump through the door, so I don’t know what is wrong with people. On one occasion, I had a coworker attempt to open the door and then demand angrily “What? What’s going on?”

    After I finished, I cheerfully walked over to that coworker to ask “Oh, were you looking for me? I was pumping milk in my office.” Witnessing their mortification was almost worth it.

    1. knitcrazybooknut*

      After a few instances, I would have yelled, “Is the building on fire???”

  26. Close Bracket*

    I have dispiriting story about warning signs that has nothing to do with pumping. I worked on a project with a high power laser that required safety glasses to even be in the room while it was on. This room was equipped with a light-up sign above the door that automatically came on when the laser was one. In case you missed the sign, there was a light absorbing curtain behind the door with a warning sign on it.

    One evening, I was working in the room, with the laser on, and I heard someone open the door and pull the curtain back. I was at the other end of the room from the door, and when I got to the door, no one was there.

    I shut the laser off and walked outside the room to see someone in the outer room. I asked him if he had opened the door, and when he said yes, told him, “When the light is on, you can’t open that door.” While walking away, he replied, “Good thing the light wasn’t on.”

    My jaw dropped. The light was functional. The curtain was drawn. And he blew right by both of those.

    Another dispiriting story: I using the single occupant restroom in a hotel lobby when I heard someone try the door and leave. “They realized it’s occupied and went to find a different one,” I stupidly thought. About a minute later, that person came back with a key and tried to open the door. It took 3 shouts of, “Excuse me!” for that person to figure out that someone was using the restroom.

    It is really disheartening to hear someone say, “You will be walked in on” during pumping. I would take it as a warning to institute every possible measure to prevent it, bc there is no limit to the depths of human stupidity (or arrogance, not sure which).

  27. David S McWilliams*

    I’m really glad Allison chose to answer this question, because I’ve never worked with someone who was pumping and had no idea that the privacy etiquette around it was different than breastfeeding.

    … they are different, right? Since breastfeeding seems to be something that people do in public, but pumping not so much? Or is this just a situation that doesn’t come up in the office, because offices generally don’t allow babies?

    1. LW*

      It’s totally different. Nursing is the normal way for a baby to drink breastmilk. It’s usually comfortable and the baby’s head covers pretty much the entire boob.

      Pumping is a different beast. You have to completely expose the breast. You are attached to a machine. You can’t move easily. You have to hunch over (sometimes). Maybe add in a little hand-squeezing action. It’s UNCOMFORTABLE. You can see the nipples going to work inside the clear plastic flange. It’s… not pretty. I nurse in public all the time. I would NEVER pump in public.

      1. Rainy, PI*

        It also LOOKS uncomfortable :( I was sitting in an old friend’s living room once when she whipped her boob out, grabbed a hand-powered pump thing (which looked like something I would apply pesticide to flowers with), and started going to town. I lasted two minutes, holding my hands protectively in front of my boobs, before I was like “sorry, too real for me”.

    2. Overeducated*

      Pumping is more awkward and revealing than breastfeeding, generally. Also people sometimes breastfeed in public, but I think it would be seen as unprofessional in a work context so I wouldn’t risk it

  28. OldMom*

    LW, I’m so sorry this happened to you and glad it turned out ok. I’m sympathetic to nursing mothers who have to deal with all this. In my situation, years ago, I found a day care a few minutes from my office, ghastly an altered schedule to work 7:30-5 with two 45 minute breaks, and drove over to the daycare twice a day at 3 1/2 hour intervals to nurse there. I only pumped at home in the morning with a manual type pump to have some extra to bring to day care. If I had had to deal with all this equipment and such I would have given up breastfeeding in a new York minute.
    I guess I hoped that by now, 30 years later, we’d have close by day care at all offices, at least one year paid maternity leaves, or some other solution besides making accommodations for what sounds to me like an extreme hardship. All for a little extra immunities… kudos to those of you who tough it out. It’s a shame that we haven’t come any farther on all this. And anecdote not data: my child who only ever had breast milk has multiple allergies, more than I do, and had all the normal childhood illnesses, mono in college, etc. well
    Maybe she’d be less healthy aid I hadn’t done all that but it doesn’t seem to have made any difference at all. Mostly I nursed b cause it was easier for me…if it’s that hard it might be worth r considering.

    1. Observer*

      That’s gross. But do we really need to compare all bad behavior to the lowest of the low?

  29. Candi*

    First reaction: No, it is not okay to be walked in on. People should think.

    Heck, the issues back in the early ‘oughts with pumping is a big part of why I nursed and fed formula, even though WIC offered the free loan of a machine.

    (Another was with my daughter -but not my son born two years earlier- my mother-in-law was tossing sage into EVERYTHING. Fun fact: sage dries up breast milk. We lived with my in-laws during most of my relationship with my ex.)

    Plus doing both nursing and formula gave me a real fun topic to toss into those inane debates about ‘what’s better’. Yes, I was extremely immature for many years.

    1. Candi*

      Realized: by ‘inane’ I mean ‘each side pursues their argument with fanatical fervor and complete lack of logic or decent science’. Calm, thoughtful discussions (such as here) I don’t have a problem with.

      (I’m a bookworm. My only guideline for picking material is ‘Does it look interesting?’ To advocate a position with nothing behind it drives me nuts.)

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