York University Refuses to Provide Lactation Accommodations

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Dear President Lenton,

As members of the York University community, we are concerned about the near absence of lactation accommodations afforded to students, faculty, and staff. While the Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC) clearly states that employers and service providers have a legal duty to accommodate those who are breastfeeding, York University currently only provides access to one space that is neither necessarily private nor open during much of the academic day. This presents an inequitable situation for members of the York community who are pumping and/or breastfeeding. We request that York University sufficiently and expediently rectify this situation.

Presently, York University community members who need access to pumping space are directed to speak with the Centre for Human Rights (CHR). Troublingly, there have been reports from community members that some of the staff at the CHR are unaware of their designated responsibility to accommodate based on family status. In the event that staff are aware of their role, the CHR directs community members in need of lactation accommodations to the two daycare centres at Keele campus. Of these two daycare centres, one does not have pumping or breastfeeding space. The other daycare centre is only open between 8:00 am and 5:30 pm Monday through Friday. This space is not guaranteed to be private. To be clear, many members of the York community need access to campus outside of these hours and on the weekends in order to take classes, to teach classes, or to do research. We believe that this is a clear violation of the OHRC. We also believe that it is inappropriate for an institution as large as York University, and one that is founded on principles of social justice, to offload the responsibility to accommodate onto a daycare centre where the staff are certainly already juggling a number of important tasks.

Therefore, we request that York University remedy this situation by opening at least one lactation lounge at each of York University’s campuses. We request that each of these lactation lounges adhere to the following standards of accommodation:

1.     A clean, quiet, and private (to those in need of accommodations) space that locks in order to breastfeed and/or pump.

2.     A space that is accessible at any hour in which a class may be held as well as an hour before and after those times. This space should also be accessible on the weekends.

3.     Access to a clean refrigerator for storage of milk.

4.     A storage space for individual pumping equipment.   

5.     Access to a designated sink in which to clean pumping equipment.

We are concerned that so many of our community members have had to work and study without access to sufficient space to pump and/or breastfeed. This is not only a violation of the OHRC, but a genuine medical and safety issue. As York University community members, we ask that you take seriously the necessity to make our campus accessible to those who have additional constraints on their ability to work and study.

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