A breastfeeding teacher has won a sexual harassment case after she was forced to express milk in the toilets of her West Yorkshire school. A tribunal heard Mirfield Grammar School ignored repeated requests from Tara Mellor for a special room to produce milk.
Instead, she had to resort to using the car park or the “often dirty” toilets during her 25-minute lunch break.
Worried that students or anyone else walking past might see her in her car, she chose the toilets more often than not. It meant that she was often left to eat her lunch in the toilets to save time.
Ms Mellor, a mother to a baby girl, told an employment tribunal in Hull: “I found it unhygienic and disgusting to have to express in the toilets. Further, as I wasn’t allocated any time to express, I had to do it at lunch time and eat my lunch at the same time.
“I found it disgusting to have to eat my lunch in toilets, which were often dirty.”
The panel heard Ms Mellor, who already had one child, gave birth to her daughter in April 2020 and asked for a room to breastfeed and express in from September. But she was told breastfeeding on site was not possible because of coronavirus restrictions.
The school argued there were a number of free rooms to use to express – a claim rejected by the tribunal. Ms Mellor told the tribunal she believed the MFG Academies Trust had a “negative attitude” towards pregnancy and maternity.
The trust argued she “would have raised a grievance” with the company if she had had a “real issue with a place to express”. However, it was ruled the school gave her “no choice” but to resort to the “humiliating” measures.
Employment Judge Richard Mille said: “As the claimant reasonably and genuinely felt compelled to act in a way that she did not want to, she was, we find, forced to do so.” We conclude, therefore, that the respondent did subject the claimant to unwanted conduct by forcing her to express milk in the toilet and/or car park.”
We find that the conduct of the respondent had the effect of creating a degrading and/or humiliating environment for the claimant.”
Ms Mellor’s claim of direct sex discrimination was unsuccessful and dismissed as was her claim of indirect sex discrimination. Her claim of harassment related to sex was successful. There will be a separate hearing to determine compensation.