MASSENA — Massena village trustees have approved revisions to their personnel policy manual, including one that addresses the village’s support for breastfeeding employees in the workplace.
“These changes are simply to demonstrate our encouragement and support of breastfeeding employees in the workplace, specifically within the village of Massena. The re-written policy is in compliance with the New York state Department of Labor as well as the federal Department of Labor,” Trustee Christine Winston said.
She said she was “quite taken aback” when she first read the policy.
“As I read through the policy, I found it to be archaic, unsupportive and lacking specific accommodations that breastfeeding employees need in place, such as a location to express milk other than a bathroom stall or restroom. I don’t think any one of us would like our food prepared in a bathroom stall or restroom, so why would we consider this acceptable for an infant child that has a compromised immune system,” Ms. Winston said.
She said the policy, as written, “also seemed to be demanding the breastfeeding moms adhere to certain time restrictions laid out by the manual as opposed to the times that work for the breastfeeding employee.”
She said it was important that employees felt that their workplace supervisors and staff members supported them in expressing milk during the work day “or else they feel a sense of shame and guilt for not adequately performing their regular workday responsibilities.”
“Therefore, I felt the need to re-write the policy to make it more employee-friendly and to demonstrate the support that the village of Massena has towards breastfeeding employees,” Ms. Winston said.
Under the revisions, which cover breastfeeding employees for up to three years post childbirth, “Breastfeeding employees who choose to continue providing milk for their infants after returning to work shall receive Milk Expression Breaks, A Place to Express Milk and Access to a Refrigerator. The village of Massena will not discriminate against an employee who chooses to express breast milk in the workplace.”
Employees are allowed to breastfeed or express milk during their normal breaks and meal times, and can use personal leave or make up time for times beyond the usual break.
A private room must be available for employees to breastfeed or express milk.
“The room will be within close proximity to the employee’s place of work; private and sanitary; located near a sink with running water for washing hands and rinsing out breast pump parts and have an electrical outlet. If employees prefer, they may also breastfeed or express milk in their own private offices, or in other comfortable locations agreed upon in consultation with the employee’s supervisor,” the policy reads.
Expressed milk can be stored in designated refrigerators provided in the lactation room or other location agreed upon by the breastfeeding employee and her supervisor.
“The updated changes to the village of Massena policy are a good start, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to advocate both for acceptance of breastfeeding and encouragement for breastfeeding employees,” Ms. Winston said. “I am thankful that the current village board of Massena is both aware and willing to be progressive in setting a precedent that supports breastfeeding employees in the workplace.”