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Wednesday, August 29, 2007It somehow seems fitting that I found time to sit down and write a post just as another national nursing fiasco is coming to light.
Apparently, "Eatin Good in the Neighborhood" does not include breast milk. At least not if your neighborhood is the Nicholasville Road Applebee's in central Kentucky. I saw the story about Brooke Ryan and her run-in with an Applebee's manager over breastfeeding in the restaurant pop up on MDC and had a few emails about it yesterday. As I sat down to write about it, I saw that it's made it's way into the mainstream press as well.
Here's the synopsis:
The dispute with Applebee's began June 14. Ryan chose a booth in the back of the restaurant away from other customers. When her baby, Michael, got hungry, she began to nurse him discreetly, she said.
But a waitress came over and said that if she wanted to breast-feed, she had to cover the baby with a blanket. Ryan said it was so hot that she didn't have a blanket. The waitress then repeated her request. Ryan said she then asked to see the manager and handed him a copy of the 2006 Kentucky law that prohibits interference with a woman breast-feeding her baby in public.
The manager said he knew about the law but a customer had complained about indecent exposure, so she had to cover the baby with a blanket.
So wait...the manager...KNEW about the law, but decided he didn't have to honor it because he didn't feel like it? Really? How do you think that line of logic would stand up in other areas of life?
"Sorry Officer, I saw the speed limit sign, but it was taking so long to get there."
"Sorry dear, I know we're married and all, but she was SOO hot!"
"I'm sorry teacher, I realize that the answer to 2+2 is 4, but that answer is so boring!"
I didn't realize that in Kentucky, you can pick and choose which laws to obey.
Kentucky's state breastfeeding law is pretty darn clear on the fact that breastfeeding is NOT considered "indecent exposure." It reads, in part:
...requires that breastfeeding may not be considered an act of public indecency, indecent exposure, sexual conduct, lewd touching or obscenity
Oh yeah...it's also pretty clear that mom has the right to nurse in public.
Permits a mother to breastfeed her baby or express breastmilk in any public or private location
So what did Ryan do?
Well, she did exactly what I'd suggest a mom do. She got the manager's name and she worked her way up the chain of command to see a remedy. Her lawyer sent a letter to Thomas and King, the company that operates the central Kentucky Applebee's. They had no response.
So they sent a second letter.
The response will make your blood boil.
After a second letter, a Thomas & King lawyer said the restaurant chain would consider keeping blankets in the restaurant so that breast-feeding women could cover themselves.
Seriously, do companies really think things through before they issue statements? Especially ones on paper? To lawyers?
Mike Scanlon, president of Thomas & King told the Lexington Herald Ledger that he was not aware of the incident, but did share his thoughts on breastfeeding in the company's restaurants.
"It is perfectly legal to breast-feed in public and we support that," Scanlon said. "I'm not sure the manager said cover the baby's head, I think he said cover yourself modestly. This was by no means intended as interference, but a request to do it modestly, which I believe is an appropriate response."
Even better, he goes on to imply that Ryan was intentionally looking to stir up trouble, citing the fact that she carried a copy of Kentucky's breastfeeding law with her.
"I note with interest that she had a copy of the statute with her," he said. "I'm glad to let this become a matter that we can all learn from."
I note it with interest as well. Though from my prospective, I find it to be an incredibly smart move to carry with you the legal statute that allows you to defend yourself when uninformed businesses try to trample on your rights as a mother.
While Applebee's still has not stepped up to the plate with an apology and plans for properly training its employees, there has been some good to come of it.
Firstly, Kentucky Senator Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, who sponsored the state's breastfeeding bill has backed Ryan completely. Buford told Ryan that he would not only support her in plans for a nurse-in at this point, but would do his best to show up personally to log his support. He even suggested that mothers hold up signs reading "small children are not allowed to eat in this restaurant."
As such, Ryan has organized two events. The first is a "nurse-out" at a nearby mall to raise awareness for Kentucky's breastfeeding laws. The second is a "nurse-in" outside of Applebee's to protest their policies toward breastfeeding moms.
Applebee's violated KRS 211.755 Educate Lexington that KY law protects public breastfeeding and mothers should never be asked to move, hide, cover up, or leave. Decorate posters and display them at a peaceful Nurse-Out.
THEME: Breastfeeding in public is Legal
DATE: Saturday, September 8, 2007
(in case of rain date 9/22/07)LOCATION: 4009 Nicholasville Road
On the public sidewalk in front of Applebee's
Exercise caution and do not block the right of way.
News crews will be reporting.
Do not park in Applebee's parking lot!
While readers know that I'm not always a fan of nurse-ins (despite having been involved with planning and attending them myself) I feel this is one that I can really get behind.
Brooke Ryan did not run screaming to other mothers the moment this happened. In fact, from the timeline I can put together, she devoted more than two months to trying to work her way through the system. She gave Applebee's every opportunity to work with her to come to a resolution. It was only when the company made it clear they did not get it OR had no interest in fixing it, that she took it to the public.
Good for her!
If you live in the area, I strongly encourage you to show up to offer your support.