The Smithsonian Institution has designed and implemented a policy to accommodate nursing mothers who are employees across its score-or-so of museums and research facilities, according to two groups that pushed for the change.
The announcement comes a few weeks after two workers’ rights groups—the American Civil Liberties Union and the First Shift Justice Project—sent a letter to the Smithsonian alleging that the institution did not provide lactation spaces, staff training, and other “basic and essential” accommodations for its nursing workers. The Smithsonian employs more than 6,000 people.
“We applaud the Smithsonian’s action in response to our letter,” said Jennifer Wedekind, a staff attorney at the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital, in a press release. “The new policy represents a victory for our clients, and a victory for all working mothers employed by the Smithsonian. However, the work is far from over.”
While the details of the policy contained in the press release are slim, the Smithsonian told the ACLU and First Shift on Wednesday that it had notified its employees of the new policy, indicating that it would identify “appropriate lactation rooms” by the end of next month. The ACLU says it will continue to monitor the institution as it works to effectuate the policy and “fulfill all of its legal obligations.”
According to the group’s letter earlier this month, only two dedicated lactation rooms exist within the entire Smithsonian network of buildings: one in the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and a second in the Smithsonian Institution Building, commonly known as the Castle. As a result, nursing mothers reportedly had to go to closets and bathrooms to express their breast milk, and some were interrupted by coworkers.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery