Mom sues YMCA for not letting her breastfeed in public

Elizabeth Gooding (Photo: Rhode Island ACLU)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP/WPRI) — A mother who says she wasn’t allowed to breastfeed in public at a Rhode Island YMCA is suing.

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

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.

Rhode Island in 2008 passed a law allowing breastfeeding in public places.

Gooding says she’s speaking out for women who’ve been shamed or prevented from nurturing their children. The lawsuit seeks a public breastfeeding policy consistent with state law.

Eyewitness News reached out Friday to Tim Babcock, vice president of operations for the Ocean Community YMCA, but he declined to comment on the matter.

UPDATE — Saturday, Ocean Community YMCA CEO Maureen Fitzgerald emailed this statement to Eyewitness News:

“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 breast feeding in the workplace and provided education for its employees in this regard.   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.”