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Settlement Of Discrimination Claim Vindicates Rights Of Breastfeeding Woman

The New York Civil Liberties Union today announced the settlement of discrimination claims against Fossil, Inc., arising from an incident in which a woman, Lass King, was harassed for attempting to breastfeed her infant son while on a buying trip in the company’s Manhattan showroom in August 2006. New York’s Civil Rights Law provides that a mother has a right to breastfeed her baby “in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be.”

The NYCLU sent a letter to the company on Feb. 13 2007, outlining Ms. King’s claims that she was told to leave the showroom after she started breastfeeding her eight-week-old son, Cody, and that she was later told she was banned from the showroom. As part of the settlement, the company issued a policy affirming that it allows breastfeeding in all Fossil stores and showrooms, and has agreed to educate and train its staff on the policy. The company has also apologized to Ms. King and agreed to compensate her for her damages.

The NYCLU applauded Fossil’s swift response: “No woman should endure harassment for breastfeeding her infant, but Fossil agreed to do the right thing as soon as they learned about this incident,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. “We are pleased that Fossil’s management was willing to use this as an opportunity to update its policies and educate its staff on the right to breastfeed.”

“Public health experts and the law agree that families who choose to breastfeed their children should be able to do so whenever and wherever necessary,” said Galen Sherwin, Director of the NYCLU’s Reproductive Rights Project. “We hope that bringing attention to these incidents will help improve corporate policies, educate the public, and ultimately remove barriers to breastfeeding.”

King was represented by Sherwin and Arthur Eisenberg of the NYCLU and by partner Roberta Kaplan and associates Ralia Polechronis and Lisa Ruesch of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP.

“Paul, Weiss is proud to be an integral part of the NYCLU’s fight to protect the rights of breastfeeding mothers,” Kaplan said.

This is the latest in a string of recent victories for breastfeeding women in New York State. After the NYCLU and Paul, Weiss advocated on behalf of a woman who was harassed for breastfeeding at a Toys R Us in New York City, Toys R Us issued a new policy affirming the rights of breastfeeding women and children. The New York State Legislature also this session enacted a law that would require employers to permit women to pump milk while on the job. Information about those victories is available on this web site.

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