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Ohio Civil Rights Commission Back Breastfeeding Mom

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Wow. Gotta say, I'm proud to live in Ohio today. (Well, actually I am most
days...just not when we're playing UofF in national championship games...)

Jake Marcus from Birth Without Boundaries just sent me this from today's Columbus Dispatch:

For the first time, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission has found probable cause that a woman was discriminated against for trying to breast-feed.

Anna Swank of Blacklick filed a complaint Aug. 29, the same day she attempted to breast-feed her then-6 month-old son, Levi, in the Kids' Club at Lifestyle Family Fitness, 5929 E. Main St., after exercising.

Swank, 33, said she was feeding Levi when a manager told her that it was inappropriate, and that if she did it again her Kids' Club privileges would be revoked. She was told to go to a locker room.

The finding against the fitness company upholds women's right to access to public places, said G. Michael Payton, executive director of the commission.

"Only females breast-feed their babies," he said. "Therefore, rules and regulations which create a hardship or burden to providing nourishment in commonly accepted ways violates the public accommodation provision on the basis of sex."


Ohio's breastfeeding in public law went into effect two years ago and though there have been some incidents with mothers breastfeeding in public, this is the first one to go this far through the system.

So what's up next?

The Civil Rights Commission will next attempt to resolve the matter with the fitness company through conciliation. No meetings have been scheduled, Payton said. If that effort fails, the commission will issue a formal complaint that the attorney general's office will prosecute in an administrative hearing.

Wonder what all that means and why I'm so happy?

Well, I'm working on confirming this with some Ohio lawyers, but basically, it looks like this judge's ruling will provide a case history to count breastfeeding as a protected class. That then means that moms that are harassed can actually file discrimination charges and that businesses will face the same legal penalties that they would face if they had discriminated against someone based on race or gender.

In other words, Ohio would have one heckofa tough breastfeeding law.

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  1. Blogger The Fluffy Ewe | 5:39 PM |  

    *wrings hands in anticipation*

    About frickin time, I say. Lol I hope this sets a precedent and makes more businesses think twice about harassing a woman trying to nourish her child.

  2. Anonymous Jake | 6:45 PM |  

    Note also that the Fitness Center's lawyer said they "reasonably accommodate" breastfeeding women. That is the standard under the Americans With Disabilities Act. These people don't even understand what law they violated!

    "Accommodate"? No thank you.

    Jake Marcus
    Birth Without Boundaries Int'l

  3. Anonymous janisfan | 9:17 PM |  

    I imagine this will also be good in helping get legislation in other states that do not protect BF moms.

  4. Anonymous Anonymous | 7:37 PM |  

    I need help. I asked for access to a dressing room today in a childrens clothing store in a mall today and was denied. They said it was their policy and the malls because it is unsanitary. They only allow nursing in the family restrooms. Excuse me---dont men with children also go in to those family restrooms and I certainly was not about to drag to cranky kids and our belongings to the second floor of the mall. I said well I will just nurse right in this corner then. So I sat down in the dirt and covered myself with a small clothing item while the unspoken offenses just started flying. I am so mad. Can anyone help guide me as to the next step I can take.

  5. Blogger The Lactivist | 4:50 PM |  

    anonymous, you can drop me an email (jennifer at thelactivist dot com) with more information and I'll see what I can do.

  6. Blogger Thomas Jackson | 6:57 PM |  

    Keep up the good work!

  7. Anonymous Anonymous | 6:20 PM |  

    My wife breastfeeds our son, today she came home and said that a manager told her people at work were complaining because she takes a ten minute break to pump at work. Note she works a full 8 hours a day with no lunch or breaks all day. Im just wondering if there is anything we can do about it. I dont feel it is right and I was just wondering who we can turn to for help.

  8. Anonymous Anonymous | 3:30 PM |  

    Hey anonomous- I just had a similar experience... My situation is a little better I think, but I'm not sure that will last. My boss told me to do what I needed to for pumping when I returned to work, but today he kinda hedged on that. I'm worried that if there are complaints from my coworkers I may have a problem. Are there any laws in Ohio or the US that I can use to defend myself? I know there's one saying I can nurse in public, but what about saying employers need to give us the opportunity/time/place? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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