Sadly, breastfeeding discrimination continues, as evidenced by the following stories of 2009:
1. Denny’s Restaurant harasses nursing mother. After Crystal Everitt was asked to cover up while breastfeeding at an Asheville, North Carolina, Denny’s restaurant, the regional management issued an unsatisfactory response. Local breastfeeding supporters went ahead with a nurse-in at the restaurant.
2. Dear Abby on pumping at work. Back in March, advice columnist Abigail Van Buren rightfully advised a woman not to be ashamed of pumping at work, but she failed to point out that a bathroom is not a pumping room and that California law protects pumping mothers in the workplace. The following June, the Dear Abby column published several follow-up letters with helpful information.
3. Parents Magazine advises being “discreet.” In April, I wrote to the Parents Magazine etiquette columnist about her belief that nursing in public is only okay as long as the breastfeeding mother is being “discreet” by utilizing shawls, scarves, dark booths and quiet corners.
4. Acosta Tacos fires woman for breastfeeding at work. The owner of Acosta Tacos in Los Angeles, California was ordered to pay Marina Chavez $21,645.00 in lost wages plus $20,000.00 for emotional damages after the owner fired Chavez for breastfeeding her baby on her breaks. In this groundbreaking case, the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission found that breastfeeding is intrinsic to the female sex and thus breastfeeding discrimination is sex discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The owner was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine, establish a written policy on sex discrimination, and post a notice regarding the company’s FEHA violation.
5. Olive Garden requires modesty. In Michigan City, Indiana, Maggie Naas was asked to move to the restroom to breastfeed her baby because, according to that Olive Garden restaurant’s manager, she was not being modest enough.
6. Chick-Fil-A offers a towel to cover up. Thirty breastfeeding women staged a nurse-in at a Florida Chick-Fil-A after a mother was asked to cover her nursing baby with a towel. The mother attempted to contact the local and corporate management and apparently received no response. (One of my favorite pictures from the nurse-in shows the Chick-Fil-A mascot, a cow, looking on as a woman nurses. There’s a joke in there somewhere!)
7. Settlement negotiations between Emily Gillette and Delta Airlines end in lawsuit being filed. It’s hard to believe that it was three years ago that Emily Gillette and her family were asked to de-board an airplane when Ms. Gillette refused a flight attendant’s request to cover her 22-month-old nursling with a blanket. In October 2009 the Burlington Free Press reported that negotiations to settle the discrimination case collapsed and Ms. Gillette has filed suit in U.S. District Court in Burlington, Vermont.
Finally, an incident that I had to add after this post was already scheduled to publish:
8. Target store calls cops on breastfeeding mother. Earlier this week the mother of a four-week-old baby felt forced to leave the Target store in Harper Woods, Michigan after she disputed the security guards’ claim that breastfeeding in the store was illegal. Guess which store will not benefit from my holiday shopping this year? [Edited to add the good news that HB 5515, the pending breastfeeding discrimination bill in Michigan, passed out of committee on a vote of 11 to 2 after the hearing on December 2nd!]