Mother struggles to pump breast milk at work

ANGLETON, TX (KTRK) -- A young mother says her employer is not giving her a time or place to express breast milk while she is at work.

Gabrielle Castaneda gave birth prematurely to a baby girl in November 2014. Baby Panda Grace is still in the NICU months later because she suffers from a birth defect that causes her intestines to protrude from her body.

Baby Grace couldn't drink her mother's milk for 13 days after she was born.

"When I go to the NICU, the doctors and the nurses, they tell me it's the best thing for her," Castaneda said, "for me to continue."

Castaneda says continuing to pump breast milk for Baby Grace is a problem at her workplace.

"My employer, they won't let me pump. I mean, they say I can, but on my own time. They have no place for me at work, they won't do anything for me," Castaneda said. "I emailed her after I came back from maternity leave and she said that unfortunately she was not able to work with me but that she hopes I'll make the right decision. So basically she wanted me to continue pumping, but I guess quit my job so that I could do that."

According to federal law, companies are required to provide nursing mothers break time to express breast milk after they give birth.

Employment Law Attorney Daryl Sinkule explained, "Under the Affordable Care Act, employers are required to provide their employees who are expressing breast milk an opportunity to do that, so they are to afford them a place to go that is out of the view of the public."

After several phone calls and a visit to the Galveston County Community Action Council, Eyewitness News heard from Executive Director Jacqueline Douglas. She said she cannot comment on personnel issues. In response to a question about the GCCAC's policy for nursing mothers, Douglas said the following: "We provide a place that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public."

Castaneda sent Eyewitness News a cell phone video of new dividers that were installed surrounding her desk Friday. However, she said the dividers do not provide enough privacy.

"I'm scared," Castaneda said, "I mean, are they pushing me to quit?"

Castaneda said she wants to work out a better solution with her employer.

For more information on protection for nursing mothers, check the Department of Labor website.
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