Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Nurse At Will, Fred Meyer Shoppers!

The following arrived in my Inbox yesterday.
Ms. Musser:

Per our conversation on April 19 and again on April 21, I am forwarding you the information we have provided to all of our regional managers, store directors, and department managers (for example, Apparel managers in each store, grocery managers in each store, Home department managers in each store, etc.). They will share this information with their employees, and our regional teams will ensure that all personnel are aware of Fred Meyer's policy.

As I shared with you when we talked on the 21st, Fred Meyer's policy has always been - and remains - to uphold the law. I would like to reiterate our sincere regret that you were made to feel uncomfortable and humilated in our store. Fred Meyer welcomes all customers to our stores---especially mothers. We support the right of women to breastfeed their children. In addition to being the right thing to do, it is the law in most places. And where it is not explicitly the law, we still want the same respect extended to women.

The following information went to the above personnel via several of our internal communications vehicles on April 21. These are the same communications vehicles we use for training and informing our managers and employees about all of our policies:

"A recent incident at one of our stores has brought to our attention the need to educate our stores on the laws regarding breastfeeding (Oregon, Washington and Alaska noted below).

Most of the state breastfeeding laws permit mothers to breastfeed in any public or private location and/or provide that breastfeeding does not constitute indecent exposure or other criminal behavior.

Simply put, a mother may breastfeed her child in our stores.

If you are approached by other Customers having a complaint on this issue, please politely explain that the law guarantees women the right to breastfeed in any place where they have a right to be.

Oregon law ORS 109.001 1999 Ore. ALS 306; 199 Ore. Laws 306; 1999 Ore. SB
744: A woman may breastfeed her child in a public place.

Washington law RCW 9A.88.010 2001 Wa. ALS 88; 2001 Wa. Ch. 88; 2001 Wa. HB 1590 (1): A person is guilty of indecent exposure if he or she intentionally makes any open and obscene exposure of his or her person or the person of another knowing that such conduct is likely to cause reasonable affront or alarm. The act of breastfeeding or expressing breast milk is not indecent exposure.

Alaska Sta. 29.25.080 (Michie 2000) provides that: In the laws of the State, "lewd conduct," "lewd touching," "immoral conduct," "indecent conduct," and similar terms do not include the act of a woman breastfeeding a child in a public or private location where the woman and child are otherwise authorized to be.
Breastfeeding does not constitute indecent exposure or other similar offences.

Idaho does not specifically address breastfeeding by State law. Fred Meyer’s position is that Idaho stores will follow the same rules as Oregon and Washington stores. If approached by a Customer with a complaint, politely explain Fred Meyer supports a mother’s right to nurse her child in public."

Ms. Musser, please call me if I can provide additional information or answer any questions.

Melinda Merrill
Director, Fred Meyer Public Affairs

Could the company had done better? Certainly. I was just chatting with my friend Alenna last night about what a great PR opportunity Fred Meyer has here. Instead of just abiding by the letter of the law, they could have embraced the spirit of it and made even more of a point of publicly welcoming nursing mothers to their stores, perhaps with signage at its store entrances.

Oh well. Freddies, I give you an "S" for Satisfactory. I won't boycott your stores anymore, but I also won't add you to the list of breastfeeding-friendly businesses I'm currently compiling. (More on that soon...send your favorite NIPping spots to me!)


msubulldog said...

I know you think they could have gone further, but I still consider this a big win. Congratulations. :) And yes, they definitely missed a big PR opp. Shame on them.

Jesica Dolin said...

Chris -

I have tried emailing you, but it doesn't work! I write the Ask The Midwife blog on OregonLive (www.oregonlive.com/weblogs/midwife), and have been writing about you and your situation. It's great they sent this letter, but I am not done with Freddy's yet. Please drop me a line from my site so we can connect and join forces!

- Jesica

Jenni said...

The lady in the yarn store (Close Knit http://www.closeknitportland.com/) on 22nd and Alberta suggested I breast feed my baby when she got a little fussy.

Lauren said...

Excellent work! You should feel very proud of yourself for putting it out there and working to make sure other moms are not harassed as you were.

jen said...

I've nursed mini-me in Target (both W. 11th in Eugene & Gateway Blvd. in Springfield), Safeway (W. 18th in Eugene), Albertson's (W. 18th in Eugene), Market of Choice (Willamette in Eugene), Radio Shack (Gateway Mall in Springfield), Red Robin (Gateway Blvd. in Springfield), and McMenamin's (East 19th in Eugene) and gotten nothing but positive looks & feedback from employees & customers.

Crystal Zook said...

I was in FM yesterday (5/4) doing a western union for work and asked if they had a read and sign yet regarding their breastfeeding policy. The lady said no, but she "saw something about it on the news but wasn't sure what it was about".
I can't believe it can take this long to get their policy out....