The following is a letter I wrote to a hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada where my family and I were guests. I ultimately did not send this version (I sent an abbreviated version recommended by my lawyer). It describes an incident which happened to me while I was eating and breastfeeding in the cafe in the lobby.
The hotel has offered to repay us for our entire stay and to include information about breastfeeding law in all of their new training. This is a major hotel which employs more than 1,000 people. I feel satisfied with this resolution, therefore I'm not including the name of the hotel.
I have been lurking in this forum since this has happend and have felt supported and inspired by many of you here - I want to thank you all for that.
To the Management:
Sunday, February 5th 11:00AM. My family and I were seated and had already ordered breakfast at the lobby cafe. I was breastfeeding my son to sleep. A female employee came over with a folded napkin. She said something about 'making him more comfortable,' I didn't understand what she meant. I honestly thought she was giving it to me to put under the baby's head like a pillow. She then clarified by unfolding the napkin and motioning toward covering my son's head and said, "To make you more comfortable." I asked her why she thought I was uncomfortable. She motioned again toward my chest and my baby's head and said, "Your skin is showing. This is to make you more comfortable." I said, "No thank you," and that I was perfectly comfortable. She walked back to the host stand and apparently proceeded to tell them what had transpired, as they all were looking over at me. I turned to my husband and said, " She is offended by my breastfeeding."
Our waiter then came to the table and I asked to speak with a manager. The woman who offered me the napkin returned. Her name tag had the title "Assistant Manager." I asked her if she offered napkins to all the women who came in the restaurant showing 'the skin on their breasts.' She said she did not allow women in bathing suit tops into the restaurant. She clearly did not get my point, because when I asked her about the women in the restaurant with an abundance of cleavage showing, she restated that they would not be allowed into the restaurant. I asked her if they did not allow breastfeeding women into the restaurant. She said, "Of course, but most women know to cover up when they are breastfeeding." She said, "I'm a mother too, and this is the right thing to do." I repeatedly asked about the hotel policy on breastfeeding. She responded repeatedly "The policy is not the point, this is not about policy." She continued, "The policy does not matter. We all know that as mothers the right thing to do is to cover up." (She said this repeatedly.) I replied, "You don't get to tell me what is the right thing to do as a mother." She responded, "Let me get my boss.".
The next woman who came to the table was the manager. She said, "You are in a public place, you cannot be exposed in public." She added, "Your breast was exposed, and you are in a public place and you should cover up." When I asked her what the hotel policy was she said that the policy is that people cannot be exposed in a public place. I informed them that I was breastfeeding my baby, and that I was in a restaurant where others were eating and that is what my baby was doing. I asked if they ask other customers to cover their heads while they eat? I said that I was allowed to feed my baby. She said again that it was "illegal to have your breast exposed in a public place.".
I told her to cancel our order, and that I was leaving. I walked through the lobby crying and shaken.
Back in our hotel room, I called the manager on duty who said she was sorry on behalf of the hotel. Because we were never able to eat at the cafe, she offered to pick up the tab if we would like to have room service delivered. I thanked her, considering that I was too humiliated to sit in the restaurant.
I telephoned the hotel the next day to discuss the incident and asked to speak with the manager, (yet another manager entirely) and after retelling the incident she said that there was currently no hotel policy with regard to breastfeeding. She said that she thought it sounded like an isolated incident and that it probably would not happen again, she said that since our meal was comped "What else do you want?" I was struck by the idea that she thought that for a $60 meal it was ok to humiliate me and violate my rights. I also reminded her that I had dealt with three separate individuals including two members of management, and I think that disqualifies it as an isolated incident.
The following day I was contacted by the Director of Guest Relations, who offered me a gift certificate to stay free at the hotel to hopefully have a better experience. I told her that I would rather send a letter and have her response be in kind. I felt that the incident would be given more weight if I were able to put it in writing. I declined her offer, because without a policy on breastfeeding which informs employees and management of the very specific Nevada State Law it was my concern that other people will experience the same discrimination and public humiliation that I had.
I was discriminated against, made to feel publicly incriminated and socially ostracized. I was humiliated by being accused of not knowing the right thing to do as a mother and by being accused of public indecency, by being told that exposing my breast in public was illegal. I was truly astounded and deeply offended by having my morals questioned, especially in front of my seven year old daughter and my husband. The irony of this happening in a place often described as 'Sin City' added a particular sting.
The proceding excerpts from Nevada State Law on the subject of breastfeeding could not be more clear. I request that compensation be made to me, that your hotel amend your written policy to include this information and that your employees be educated about said written policy and the Nevada state law.
RE: Nevada State Law on Breastfeeding
Nev. Rev. Stat. & 201.232,201.210,201.220 (1995)
*states that the breastfeeding of a child in any location, public or private is not considered a violation of indecent exposure laws. (SB 317)
*Any genuine promotion of family values should encourage public acceptance of this most basic act of nurture between a mother and her baby, and no mother should be made to feel incriminated or socially ostracized for breast feeding her child.
*Nevada has enacted a law that specifically sets forth the importance of breastfeeding, and clarifies that women have a right to breastfeed their children in public, even if there is exposure of the breast. It also clarifies that breastfeeding is not an indecent or criminal act.
2. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a mother may breast feed her child in any public or private location where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother's breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breast feeding.