PROVIDENCE — The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island announced Friday that it had settled its its case on behalf of Elizabeth Gooding, of Hopkinton, who sued the Ocean Community YMCA in May, alleging that the Westerly-based Y had violated her right to breastfeed in public. “Parties in the lawsuit have agreed to a resolution of all issues presented in the case, and filed a stipulation of dismissal after signing a confidential settlement agreement and release,” the ACLU reported on its website.
H. Jefferson Melish, a volunteer attorney for the ACLU, said the settlement, dated Friday, was “fair to all parties and recognizes the importance of the Rhode Island Breastfeeding in Public Places statute.”
The lawsuit, filed in Washington County Superior Court on May 12, asserted that the facility repeatedly prohibited Gooding — a mother of three and former YMCA member and employee — from breastfeeding her 1-year-old daughter in public, in violation of state anti-discrimination laws and a statute specifically allowing breastfeeding in public. The ACLU noted that Rhode Island law protects the right of women who are openly breastfeeding to do so anywhere they are authorized to be,
In the weeks following the lawsuit, Gooding organized an informational “nurse-in” at the YMCA’s Mystic branch. She had complained that she was asked to move twice while she was breast-feeding her daughter in a day care area of the Y, and that day care supervisors told her she could not breast-feed in public. YMCA administrators told her to cover up and to be more discreet, Gooding said in the lawsuit.
In response, the YMCA said that it had taken steps to address Gooding’s concerns, which she had expressed “almost two years ago,” and had developed a policy on breast-feeding in the workplace and provided education for its employees. But in a letter to the Best for Babies Foundation, Gooding said she had sued when she discovered that such a policy had not been adopted.