YMCA changes breastfeeding policy after mother files lawsuit

Elizabeth Gooding

ACLU of Rhode Island/WPRI

WESTERLY, R.I. -- A Rhode Island YMCA being sued by a mother who claims the agency wouldn't allow her to breastfeed in public says it had developed a policy allowing mothers to breastfeed in the facility in response to her complaint.

The American Civil Liberties Union said Friday it filed a lawsuit against the Ocean Community YMCA for Elizabeth Gooding, a mother of three who was a part-time employee and member there. The YMCA issued a statement Saturday.

Gooding alleges YMCA employees at the Westerly branch told her in February 2015 and again a month later she couldn't nurse in public areas at the YMCA.

The YMCA says it took "affirmative steps" to address Gooding's concerns at that time. It said a private area was created for employees who choose to breastfeed.

Tim Babcock, vice president of operations for the YMCA facility, declined to comment on the lawsuit Friday, according to CBS affiliate WPRI in Providence.

The facility's CEO, Maureen Fitzgerald, issued a statement to WPRI on Saturday, saying the local chapter had taken steps to develop the new policy and education for staff.

"The Ocean Community YMCA regrets that a former employee and member felt it necessary at this time to file suit against the YMCA for an incident that she alleges took place almost two years ago. The Ocean Community YMCA took affirmative steps at that time to address her concerns. The Ocean Community YMCA developed a policy on breastfeeding in the workplace and provided education for its employees in this regard," the statement read.

"The Ocean Community YMCA also created a private area for employees who choose to breastfeed, if they so desire to use it. The Ocean Community YMCA wants to assure the community that it does not restrict where members or program participants may breastfeed within the facility.  The Ocean Community YMCA is confident that it is in compliance with federal and Rhode Island law in this regard and remains committed to the health, safety and welfare of its employees, members and program participants."