A nursing mother says she was accused of “indecent exposure” as she fed her 4-month-old son while sitting on the floor of a hallway of the Henry J. Daly building, waiting for a ticket adjudication.
Simone Manigo-Truell, a lawyer at a local firm, wrote to say she was first told by a security guard named Erica Fowler to stop sitting on the floor, a request she complied with. She says Fowler then told her to stop nursing, and said, “Well, this is a government building, and you can’t breastfeed in a public corridor of a government building!”
Which would be incorrect, since the 2007 amendment to the D.C. Human Rights Act expressly gives mothers the right to nurse their children anywhere public or private they can be together. Manigo-Truell writes, “It is shocking that the District has failed to educate its employees and sub-contractors on the current status of District laws on key issues which they may have to deal with.” (Manigo-Truell also posted about the incident on D.C. Urban Moms last week, in a thread that now covers 29 pages.)
But General Services—-the division that hires the contractors who hire the security officers in the building—-insists its contractors have familiarized officers with the law. Moreover they contradict Manigo-Truell’s account, saying that she was offered alternative spaces to nurse. “At no time was the mother prohibited from nursing,” says spokesman Darrell Pressley. Rather, he says Manigo-Truell was asked to move from the floor of the hallway and sit at a telephone booth, and also offered a private room.
For her part, Manigo-Truell says that account is “completely false.” She adds:
[It] demonstrates that they still do not appreciate the fact that the law permitted me to nurse in that corridor so there was no need to offer me a bench in a phone booth (do phone booths even still exist)? Also, if they offered me a room, wouldn’t I have just taken it? Wouldn’t I have preferred to nurse in a room rather than a corridor leaning up against a wall?
And another question: If the General Services account is true, why would they offer an alternate space? The law says a mother can nurse a hungry child wherever she’d like. So why try to move her?
Photo by Vermin Inc via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License