A mother in Janesville, WI was harassed by a USPS employee for breastfeeding her baby while mailing packages on two separate occasions, two days in a row. The employee broke state and federal laws that protect nursing mothers and children, telling the mom she needed to cover up or leave.
Raven Dibble shared her story on the nurse-in event page:
On two separate occasions this week at the Janesville Post Office, I was asked to cover up or leave while nursing. I was at the 1818 Milton Avenue Post Office on July 8 to send some packages and I went up to the counter nursing my 2 week old in a ring sling. The postal worker helping me said, “ma’am, you may want to cover yourself.”
“No thanks, I’m fine,” I reply.
“Well I just want you to know that you’re exposed.”
I thanked her and carried on, finished my transaction without any more conversation and left.
I went back into the Post Office the next day, on Thursday, July 9. The same worker was again there and I was nursing my daughter. When I got to the front of the line she asks me to wait a second and goes to the back for a few minutes. She then completes my transaction and says, “Ma’am, I know you don’t mind, but I’ve talked to my Post Master and you need to either cover up or breastfeed in your car or I can refuse you service.”
I say to her, “Let me just stop you there. What you’re doing is legally harassment. I am legally allowed to feed my child as covered or uncovered as I’d like, anywhere I’d like.”
“Maybe that’s the way you see it, but I see it as indecent exposure and I’m just looking out for all the people who don’t want to be flashed,” she told me.
One of our local lactation consultants was behind me in line and spoke up, defending my rights.
She goes on to argue with me (me saying breastfeeding is hard enough, in public even harder–she cuts me off saying she knows, that she breastfed two kids, “the right way–privately.” And tells me that doing so “is not hard.”
I told her she should be ashamed of herself then, for knowing the struggle and making me feel like I’m a bad person, she claimed that she wasn’t.
“But that’s really what you’re doing. All I’m doing is feeding my child and you’re treating me like I’m doing something wrong,” I told her.
“We can have different opinions, I just think it’s indecent,” she said. She than invites the next person up to help because she’s “not going to fight about it”.
Everything that she said to me was in a loud argumentative tone, meant for the whole Post Office to hear.
What the breastfeeding law in Wisconsin and on Federal property?
- Wis. Stat. § 944.17(3), § 944.20(2) and § 948.10(2)(b) (1995) provide that breastfeeding mothers are not in violation of criminal statutes of indecent or obscene exposure. (AB 154)
- 2009 Wis. Laws, Act 148 provides that a mother may breastfeed her child in any public or private location where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be. The law specifies that in such a location, no person may prohibit a mother from breastfeeding her child, direct a mother to move to a different location to breastfeed her child, direct a mother to cover her child or breast while breastfeeding, or otherwise restrict a mother from breastfeeding her child. (2009 AB 57)
- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a woman may breastfeed her child at any location in a Federal building or on Federal property, if the woman and her child are otherwise authorized to be present at the location.
There is also an enforcement provision for violating a mother’s right to breastfeed: 939.61: (1) If a person is convicted of an act or omission prohibited by statute and for which no penalty is expressed, the person shall be subject to a forfeiture not to exceed $200.
I am saddened to hear of another mother and child facing harassment and bullying for just doing what’s normal, recommended, and legal. I have breastfed in my local post office nearly every visit. It’s just what nursing moms have to do to get through in peace, right? Raven has every right to file an official complaint and takes this employee to court for breaking the law.
How can you help?
Attend the peaceful nurse-in at the Janesville Post Office (1818 Milton Avenue) on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015 from 3-5PM or share the news of the event. Tweet @USPS and @USPSHelp & write on their Facebook page wall.
Personally, I hope this USPS location and employee makes amends to this family and their community and turns the nurse-in into an event to support families in the community. Keep on standing up for yourself and your children and breastfeeding or bottle-feeding with pride. People need to see breastfeeding to accept it as normal. Call your state rep and ask for an enforcement provision for breastfeeding laws if your state doesn’t have one.
Take a stand
It’s up to everyone to help stop the mistreatment of women and children. If you see a woman bottle-feeding or breastfeeding in public, give her a thumbs up. If you see someone shaming a mom in person or online, making fun of her, asking her to cover up, move, or stop, stand up for what’s right and talk to them. Be respectful but honest. It’s not okay to harass moms for taking care of their children. It’s time to stand up for women, babies, our future.
How does this incident make you feel? How do you think USPS should respond?
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