Mom told to breastfeed in bathroom

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, March 4, 2020

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A Powhatan mother’s position at Crossroads Community Service Board was eliminated two days after her return from maternity leave and following a refusal to pump her breast milk in a bathroom.

Mom of three Shawn Umstead said she was an employee at Crossroads for five years where she was serving as camp coordinator and assistant day program manager for all day programs within Crossroads.

Umstead gave birth to a baby girl Oct. 7 of last year and spent 12 weeks on maternity leave following health issues with her newborn.

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She returned to work Monday, Jan. 6, and was instructed by her supervisor to spend the day working on a crew to supervise adults with developmental disabilities that had janitorial contracts with the organization. During the day, Umstead was to take the crew to the main Crossroads office to clean bathrooms, floors and pick up trash.

According to Umstead, when she expressed concern that she would not have a place to pump breast milk during the day’s excursion, she was told by her supervisor to pump in the bathroom. She was also concerned about compromising her responsibility to watch the adults by taking a break to pump.

Umstead refused to pump in the restroom and instead visited her HR representative whose office was in the main building where the cleaning occurred.

Umstead said her HR rep offered her own office as a place to pump, but Umstead was uncomfortable with the multiple windows in the office.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s website, federal law requires employers to provide reasonable break time and a space for an employee to express breast milk. Employers are required to provide a private place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public.

When Umstead made it through the day and returned to her own office location to pump, the anxiety brought on by the day made milk production extremely difficult. She said she struggled to produce milk the following several days.

Wednesday, Jan. 8, two days after the incident, Umstead walked into work to learn that her position had been eliminated.

Crossroads Executive Director Dr. Susan Baker said that she was looking into the incident, but could not comment on the personnel issue.

Umstead said she was offered another position at a separate location more than an hour away, but that the position came with a severe pay cut and would require a two-hour commute to work.

“My whole paycheck goes to daycare and insurance,” she said. “I just could not afford to do that.”

She said Crossroad’s supported employment program that provides minimum-wage jobs to adults with disabilities was also shut down at the same time her position was eliminated, although her position is not related to the program.

In 2016, Crossroads faced controversy after the termination of four employees was determined to have violated state regulations requiring the organization to notify the Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services before implementing structural changes.

The four former employees filed multiple lawsuits against the agency, which were eventually dismissed by Circuit Court Judge Joseph M. Teffey Jr.

According to a previous article by The Herald, Crossroads experienced heavy criticism and condemnation by employees, ex-employees and the public during this period, prompting a resignation of the organization’s then-child psychiatrist of seven years, who termed the agency’s actions an “abuse of power.”