An Oregon woman settled a gender discrimination and harassment case earlier this year claiming she was “mooed” by colleagues when she pumped breast milk at work.
In the complaint filed with Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries, Monica Van De Pitte alleged that a co-worker at Velocitel, Inc., a wireless network services company that builds cell phone towers, also taped a picture of a cow mooing to the door of the supply room where she and another nursing mother were forced to pump.
In papers obtained by PEOPLE, Van De Pitte claims the harassment at the Lake Oswego location was so hurtful that she “struggled to compose herself enough to express any milk once inside the room.”
When she interviewed with the company in 2012, Van De Pitte told supervisors she needed some flexibility because she had two young children and was still nursing her 1-year-old son, and would need a private space where she could pump during the work day, according to the complaint.
On her first day of work, another nursing mother told her that the “private space” was the company’s supply room. Her co-worker then cautioned her to keep her breast pump hidden because other employees thought it was “gross.”
Many of her colleagues openly bragged about their sex lives, Van De Pitte alleged. One colleague in particular was nicknamed “The Walking HR Violation” because of his hostile and harassing conduct, her complaint said.
The same employee regularly demeaned women, including Van De Pitte, by pretending to “honk” their breasts.
Van De Pitte says she approached the employee to stop his demeaning behavior but he just “snickered” at her concerns.
A month later, Van De Pitte says she complained to her supervisors about her colleagues’ behavior and was told by a supervisor that she needed to “privately reflect on why sexual conversations made her uncomfortable.”
Van De Pitte says she finally quit in January 2013 after her bosses informed the staff she had filed a sexual harassment complaint.
Velocitel, Inc. did not return calls for comment. The settlement amount was sealed.