A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT WITH CENTURY 21 DEPARTMENT STORES

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT WITH CENTURY 21 DEPARTMENT STORES TO STRENGTHEN PROTECTIONS FOR BREASTFEEDING MOTHERS

Century 21 To Modify Policies To Ensure Rights of Breastfeeding Mothers Are Protected; Pay$5K to NYC Department Of Health And Mental Hygiene For Program That Offers Breastfeeding Support To Mothers 

Schneiderman: Nursing Mothers Have the Right to Breastfeed Their Babies in Public Without Harassment

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced an agreement with Century 21 Department Stores that will protect the rights of nursing mothers seeking to breastfeed at its stores in New York. The Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau opened an investigation into the Company after receiving a complaint alleging that in July 2015, a Century 21 Cortlandt Street store employee told a mother breastfeeding her child on the sales floor that she must go to the fitting room.  The mother alleged that she filed a complaint after the incident through Century 21’s website but received no response from the Company.  Under New York State law, a mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, so long as she otherwise has the right to be there, regardless of whether she is covered while nursing.

“Time and again, research has shown that the benefits of breastfeeding to mother and child are innumerable, and mothers who choose to nurse their babies must have their rights protected,”Attorney General Schneiderman said.  “Nursing mothers have the right to breastfeed their babies in public without interference or harassment. I applaud Century 21 for taking steps to ensure that the rights of nursing mothers are fully protected, and I will continue working to make sure that this is the case across New York State.” “Mothers have a right to breastfeed, and I welcome the news that Century 21 is recognizing that right,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12). “Breastfeeding can have significant health benefits for mother and child, but the statistics show that far too many mothers still face discrimination. Mothers who breastfeed deserve a society that accommodates and supports their decision. I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman’s work to strengthen protections for breastfeeding mothers.”

The Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau opened an investigation that found that Century 21 did not have a policy addressing the right to breastfeed within its stores at the time of the alleged incident.  In response to the Attorney General’s investigation, the Company took steps to strengthen its policy to explicitly state that:

  • Breastfeeding mothers have the right to breastfeed their babies in any area of the store where the public has access;
  • Century 21 employees must allow any breastfeeding mother to breastfeed her baby without interference; and
  • Century 21 employees may not ask breastfeeding mothers to go to the fitting room or any other private area because she is breastfeeding.

Century 21 will instruct all employees and managers who deal with customers on the new policy. Century 21 has also committed to:

  • Ensuring that complaints alleging interference with a mother’s right to breastfeed at any of its stores will be promptly investigated and responded to;
  • Displaying the international symbol for breastfeeding at the entrances to its New York stores; and
  • Paying $5,000 to New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to support the activities of its Newborn Home Visiting Program, which provides breastfeeding support to new mothers.

“Breastfeeding is great for infants and mothers, and women can breastfeed anywhere they have the legal right to be – period. No mother should be forced to hide away simply because she chooses to breastfeed her child. Thank you to Attorney General Schneiderman for tackling this important issue and standing up for New York moms,” said State Senator Liz Krueger.

“We know that breastfeeding is the best option for mom and for baby,” said Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther. “I have been proud to work on the Breastfeeding Mother’s Bill of Rights.  As a nurse and as a mother, I’m so pleased to know that Attorney General Schneiderman is working to promote breastfeeding and women’s rights.”

Dr. Susan Vierczhalek, chairperson of the New York Statewide Breastfeeding Coalition, said, “Mothers who seek to breastfeed their babies in public should be supported, not harassed.  Breastfeeding is normal and is good for babies, mothers, and families. We are pleased that the Attorney General’s Office has looked into concerns we raised, and applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for continuing to protect the rights of breastfeeding mothers.”

Dr. Noora Arajärvi said, “ I was shocked when a Century 21 employee asked me to go to a fitting room to continue breastfeeding my baby. I hope this agreement will help to ensure that other mothers who breastfeed their babies in public can feel comfortable everywhere, including department stores, such as Century 21. I thank the Attorney General’s Office for investigating my complaint and working to protect the rights of breastfeeding mothers.”

Century 21 operates six (6) stores in New York State:  one in Brooklyn, two in Manhattan, one in Queens, and two in Long Island.  In 2014, the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau secured an agreement with Barnes and Noble that similarly protects the rights of breastfeeding mothers. A copy of the agreement can be found here.

The Civil Rights Bureau of the Attorney General’s Office is committed to combating unlawful harassment and discrimination and protecting reproductive rights across New York State. To file a complaint, contact the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau at (212) 416-8250,civil.rights@ag.ny.gov or visit www.ag.ny.gov.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Dariely Rodriguez and Volunteer Assistant Attorney General Caitlin McCartney of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau, which is led by Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke. The Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice is Alvin Bragg.

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