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Question
Posted by: Anonymouse | 2012-05-30

derogatory remark about breast feeding

Dear Prof

Last year I had a new baby and when I returned to work, was expressing breast milk for about 4 months at work. This diffucult colleague of mine (I wrote about him before) recently made a remark that I was unprofessional because he once saw my breast pump next to my computer on my desk. That was because he insisted on coming in despite a sign on my door saying " do not disturb" . I feel awful and violated after this comment (just one in his long list of critique). Is this sexual harassment?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Obviously it is your obnoxious colleague who is thoroughly unprofessional and spiteful - and interfering. As purple says at least initially your right to expres milk at work is protected, and you should ask HR to take steps to protect your rights on this issue, and to instruct Mr Nasty to grow up and stop interfering in other people's lives.
Your right to express far exceeds his right to express himself unpleasantly

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Our users say:
Posted by: Anonymouse | 2012-06-04

@Liza, well, I am in fact seeing a therapist to help me through this. So if it comes to that I will be able to get a letter from her.

Reply to Anonymouse
Posted by: Liza | 2012-06-03

PS. I seem to remember that this guy knows about mistakes you made at work. But how can anyone expect you NOT to make mistakes when you''re completely stressed out because of workplace bullying?!? If you can get a report from a psychologist that states that, to use as proof when he does try an accuse you, he doesn''t stand a chance!

Reply to Liza
Posted by: Liza | 2012-06-03

Great advice from Purple. This guy is a bully. Keep detailed notes of the nasty things he says and when he says them. (If you can tape him saying them even better - a little dictaphone taped underneath your desk, so you can just press the button when he comes into your office, might work) When you have enough proof, lay a grievance against him with HR.

Also remember that bullies have low self-esteem themselves and are only trying to make themselves feel better by belittling others. I''ve found that returning an insult with a cutting remark can reduce the bullying in future. Think of all the things he has said in the past (sometimes bullies like to re-use favorite insults and it''s easy to think of answers to reply to them beforehand.) Just be careful with your replies. You don''t want to get into trouble yourself. E.g. He tells you it''s unprofessional to have a breast pump on your desk, reply that it''s unprofessional of him to ignore a Do not disturb sign and does he want anything or is he just there to nitpick?

I''m really wondering whether this jerk perhaps specifically waited until he saw the sign to try and catch you in a compromising position. I wouldn''t be surprised in the least... Perhaps change the board on your door to " Do NOT Enter. If the building is burning down, please knock three times and leave."  At the very least it will get some of your colleagues laughing and at best it will start to shine a spotlight on this guy''s behaviour.

Good Luck
Liza

Reply to Liza
Posted by: cybershrink | 2012-05-31

Obviously it is your obnoxious colleague who is thoroughly unprofessional and spiteful - and interfering. As purple says at least initially your right to expres milk at work is protected, and you should ask HR to take steps to protect your rights on this issue, and to instruct Mr Nasty to grow up and stop interfering in other people's lives.
Your right to express far exceeds his right to express himself unpleasantly

Reply to cybershrink
Posted by: XXX | 2012-05-30

I don''t think that is sexual harrassment but it might be better to " hide"  your breast pump in your drawer whilst not using it.
Other than that,close your door and put up a sign.You cannot do more than that.
If he continues to hassle you then you might need to speak to your HR dept or manager.

Reply to XXX
Posted by: purple | 2012-05-30

I''m also a breastfeeder who expresses milk at work. I leave my pump out on my bookshelf near my desk and only one male colleague even knew what it was - and said, oh, my wife has the same pump.

Breastfeeding isn''t sexual, but there are some men who for whatever sick reasons of their own make sexual comments about it.

Its sad that you feel violated by his comment, and he did behave most unprofessionally, but sad as it is, if you draw attention to expressing milk at work, some busy body is going to try and put a stop to you doing it. Your right to express is legally protected up to 6 months, but thereafter, if issue is taken with it, you have to negotiate your way around it. Although most employers realise that if your baby gets breastmilk you will be off less on family responsibility leave than if baby is formula fed, some just don''t grasp this and also don''t understand that you can express while working and that even if you stop working, you are away from your desk for less time than a smoker anyway.

Just carry on as you are. I also just put up a do not disturb sign. I hear people outside my door saying " oh, she''s expressing, shall I wait a bit or come back later"  and my wonderful assistant who knows how long it takes me generally will give an idea of whether I will be another few minutes or longer.

He is deliberately trying to upset you and you are rising to the bait.

Perhaps go to him and say that his remarks make you uncomfortable and that if he continues to treat you in this manner that you will lay a grievance about him and report him for sexual harassment.

Keep notes of what he is doing and if he bullies you or makes sexual comments then you can take it further and you have the ammunition for doing so.

Reply to purple
Posted by: Maria | 2012-05-30

You''re giving this guy too much power in your life. Just ignore that comment as if it never happened. It came from someone whose opinion is not worth anything. You are a good mother, you did what was necessary to have privacy, and it''s not as if he saw you expressing.

Reply to Maria

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