Nursing Mom Alleges|Hellish Ordeal at Meijer’s

     SWARTZ CREEK, Mich. (CN) — The supermarket Meijer’s failure to give nursing mothers a safe space to express breast milk put one employee through a traumatic ordeal that ended in her firing, she claims in court.
     Rachel Keesling says she was nursing a 3-month-old child when Meijer hired her to work as a clerk at its Swartz Creek location in July 2013.
     Over the next year, according to Keesling’s complaint in Genesee County Circuit Court, Meijer’s failure to dedicate a legally required lactation room sent Keesling bouncing between a conference room, the store’s bathroom, and a closet-like space that housed the store’s computer server and other communications hardware.
     There was even a period where Keesling had her pay docked because of delays in finding a place to express milk, according to the complaint.
     When a union steward intervened, Meijer wiped the disciplinary actions from Keesling’s personnel file, and the corporate office sent out a letter to all store managers about the store’s duty under federal law with regard to nursing mothers, the complaint states.
     More trouble erupted, however, when Meijjer allegedly put the server room Keesling had been using off-limits to her on May 2, 2014.
     That day, Keesling says, a supervisor told her “there were monitored security cameras inside the room.”
     Apparently a store manager had learned that Keesling was using the room “and had objected to its continued use because … ‘you can see everything’ (as recounted by plaintiff’s supervisor,” according to the complaint (parentheses in original).
     “There’s probably a video of you on the internet,” another supervisor allegedly told Keesling.
     Meijer has not returned a request for comment.
     “Distraught and humiliated,” Keesling says she and her fiance sought answers from the store director. Up until that point, Keeslng had allegedly been the server room roughly three times a day for several months to express milk.
     Keesling says the store director was “dismissive” and unapologetic.
     Though the director denied that the server room had a camera, Keesling says she refused to let her back into it to check.
     Keesling called corporate to complain about what happened, but the stress of the situation frayed her and her fiance’s nerves, according to the complaint.
     Noting that her fiance had become “enraged and depressed with the situation,” Keesling says the man wound up firing a modified flare gun.
     The shot went through the fiance’s head, according to the complaint, “and then tore into plaintiff’s neck and pieces lodged next to her spine.”
     Though silent on her fiance’s condition, Keesling notes that their daughter was unharmed. Keesling herself needed surgery, according to the complaint, and was placed on medical leave for nearly two months.
     Ready to return to work on June 12, Keesling says she requested a transfer to a different store “due to the sexually hostile environment created by the invasion of provicay (sic) and jokes about internet videos, because of what had occurred, the scrutiny of her co-workers and managers, and the emotional distress.”
     The store director denied Keesling a transfer, however, and Meijer fired her effective June 13, “allegedly because she could not come back to the same store where her privacy was violated,” Keesling says.
     The Lapeer woman’s complaint, filed June 30, seeks damages for emotional distress, invasion of privacy, sex discrimination and sexually hostile work environment.
     Keesling is represented by David Blanchard with Blanchard & Walker in Ann Arbor.

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