Woman Praised for Switching Webcam on While Pumping Breast Milk in Meeting

A working mom has been praised after exacting sweet revenge when was told she must have her camera turned on during a recent Zoom meeting at work.

Despite her prior warnings, however, her boss had failed to realize that the woman had her camera turned off because she was pumping breast milk for her infant child.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that mothers exclusively breastfeed infants for about the first six months of their lives and continue breastfeeding while introducing complementary foods for a year or more.

Despite this, a study by the CDC found that around 60 percent of mothers don't breastfeed for as long as they intend to. A research paper published by the University of Virginia and Virginia Medical School cited several factors behind this including "unsupportive work policies."

For one new mom writing on Reddit as HappyGiraffe, her employer had largely been supportive in that respect - until recently.

The woman, who claimed to be a project manager and data scientist in "public health," said she only recently returned from her maternity leave and now works three days a week in the office. Being away from home may have made breastfeeding tricky, but she had come up with an effective enough system.

Tricky Timing

"I have to pump breastmilk at regular intervals for my baby," she explained. "Luckily, I have my own private office and can usually just keep on working while I pump. I have a hands-free, wearable pump which is convenient....but still definitely obvious if I am wearing it."

Up until recently everything had been going smoothly. However, that all changed when she discovered a Zoom meeting had been scheduled for a time when she "needed to pump."

Rather than miss the meeting, she assumed she could "just keep my camera off" and continue pumping. But a few minutes into the Zoom chat, the person leading the meeting told attendees: "I just want to remind everyone that our expectation is that you will have your cameras on because this is not a virtual meeting, it is a simulated in person meeting."

When she tried to explain her situation in a private message to the meeting lead, she got no response, with the chair instead reiterating to everyone present that: "The expectation is that all cameras will be on."

Given little other choice, she went ahead and switched her camera on, with her breast pump left "clearly visible" to the 20 colleagues present, not to mention the accompanying noise.

Defiant Stance

"Thank you for your patience, I was adjusting my breast pump," she told the attendees. Though several managers reached out privately during the meeting to say she could turn her camera off, she went on regardless, evidently keen to prove a point.

Her defiant stance had the desired effect too. According to the post, during a recent Zoom meeting they were advised: "Please turn on your cameras if you are comfortable doing so."

An example of the kind of obstacles working mothers face and a reminder of the negative attitude many employers have toward remote working, the woman's account struck a chord with many on social media, earning over 40,000 upvotes in the process.

New-accountheyy praised the woman's actions, writing: "You did that for everyone." Only_Comments_On_GW agreed, noting the she "could've made a stink" and got the meeting organizer "canned" particularly as they had tried to explain the situation in private.

Raznill commented: "Yeah I'm pretty sure there are laws around providing private clean areas to pump. And having to let employees pump when needed. HR was probably livid."

Despite the apparent victory, Harrywwc felt there was something slightly "patronizing" about the woman being allowed to turn her camera off because she is pumping milk. "I think the subtext really is 'turn on your cameras as long as you don't make me uncomfortable.'"

ForeignAssociation98, meanwhile, said it was "funny and sad how you have to shame people to make a point. Glad you were able to retain your dignity while making a point."

Elsewhere, Acceptable-Site suggested the woman's employer may have even been in breach by having her sit in on the meeting in the first place.

"Depending on where you are located, some states require that you be given a break from work so that you may pump. The fact you were working during your pump break could also have gotten someone somewhere in trouble," they said. "Added to that, you are required to be given a private space to pump. By forcing you to turn on your camera they are violating that privacy."

Large-Criticism7420 was similarly critical, writing: "You have a right to privacy in these situations if you need it and could have their ass from HR and compliance."

According to the Department of Labor: "Federal law requires employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child's birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.

"Employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk."

Newsweek has contacted HappyGiraffe for comment.

A woman working with a breast pump.
A file photo of a woman working at her desk with a baby and a breast pump - a working mom has been praised for highlighting a major flaw in her boss's rules about remote working. Big Joe/Getty