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Chicago cop reveals what new moms face on the force

CHICAGO (CBS) – For three years, Chicago police officer Erin Kreho documented filthy conditions in rooms she had to use when expressing breast milk. She faced unsanitary conditions and a lack of privacy after having her children. Kreho has also filed formal complaints of state and federal government violations. Despite this, she says the Chicago police have not solved the problems.

“It shouldn’t be about cleaning a room or asking to use a place where your co-workers can’t see you … in a state of undress,” Kreho said. “Or worrying about the contaminants that, you know, obviously end up in the milk.”

Kreho said she should use wipes to clean very dirty areas and seats she used before pumping.


Erin Kreho

Kreho gave birth to two children while on the force, but after returning to her job as a Chicago police officer, she faced difficult and humiliating challenges trying to use her breast pump.


“My face was so red all the time and I was just crying it was just humiliating,” Kreho said of one of several embarrassing moments that included other cops walking in while she was pumping. “I would have stripped naked in front of my colleagues and pumped milk.”


Erin Kreho

Federal and state statutes require employers to provide nursing women with a clean room to pump with a locked door lock for privacy. It can’t be a bathroom. Kreho says the department charged with enforcing the law has broken it. She started collecting evidence, photos and videos to document the bad conditions of the past three years.


Erin Kreho

“If you weren’t having lunch there, I really shouldn’t be expressing milk for a baby and I did,” Kreho said.

She said she was sent to bathrooms to pump and had to drag chairs in and sit by whatever outlets she could find.

“I put my bag on the floor. The pump would go on my lap, and yes, I’m very close to a urinal,” Kreho said. “I was frustrated, I was really anxious. It would make me go home sick.”

Erin Kreho

She says her career as a Chicago police officer got off to a great start. Her image was even used on a recruitment poster.


Erin Kreho

But that all changed when she had a baby in 2020 and went back to work with issues about where to pump.

“That was one of the worst times for me emotionally,” said Kreho. “I was initially told to pump into the back seat of the patrol car.”

She says she had to pump in all kinds of unacceptable conditions – in dirty bathrooms, lockers and storage rooms.

She filed two complaints with the Illinois Department of Human Rights in 2021. Each detailed the poor conditions.

“Illinois Department of Human Rights agreed with me on some instances of discrimination and not with me on others,” Kreho said.

She’s not the only one with problems. Jessica Lee, a senior attorney at the Center for WorkLife Law in San Francisco, said Kreho’s case is overwhelmingly prevalent among women who work for police and fire departments across the country.

“Since 2022, we found that of all breastfeeding discrimination cases decided under those federal laws against sex discrimination, 41% were from first responders,” said Lee. “So even though only a small portion of the population work as women in those fields, they really dominate the courts, and that’s a terrible trend when these are the people charged with enforcing the law and protecting our communities. “

She says employers in male-dominated industries have not treated women fairly for centuries. There have been other similar lawsuits against the Chicago Police Department and the Chicago Fire Department, along with police departments in New York, Philadelphia, and New Jersey.

“It’s definitely still a macho culture among police officers, firefighters and other first responders,” Lee said. “Many women who have filed discrimination cases have said they didn’t quite fit in. And as soon as they said they should start expressing milk or breastfeeding, they suddenly felt a flood of harassment.”

Lee reiterated that workers in Illinois have the right to pause time for pumping in clean private areas that are not bathrooms.

“I didn’t expect it to be this hard,” Kreho said of her efforts to get a clean room to pump. “There have been several times when I’ve had to throw out the milk I’ve expressed — if the room was particularly dirty.”

She says that after her first two complaints, the problem was not resolved. She was told to use a filthy storage room. It was filled with discarded office equipment, boxes, and other supplies.


Erin Kreho

It was also covered in white dust particles.


Erin Kreho

“It fell from the ceiling. It fell all over the room and it fell continuously,” Kreho said. “Which I was worried about contaminating the milk.”

Kreho then filed another complaint this summer. This one is from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). She is frustrated and discouraged about the impact this is having on her work and children. She also fears retaliation.

“I was treated differently because I complained, I would say for sure,” Kreho said. “It’s very hard to advocate for yourself over and over again and just not get a result.”

Her complaint led to an investigation by the Chicago Internal Affairs Police Department. It opened in July 2021. Two years later nothing has happened. Kreho is still waiting to just talk to an investigator.

Chicago police declined to comment due to pending litigation.

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