Witness' Dismissal From Norwich Courtroom Brings Reminders About Breastfeeding Law

, The Connecticut Law Tribune

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Kimberly Jacobsen, an attorney with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, said there are two sets of laws in the state regarding breastfeeding. The first involves employment law, and requires that employers provide breastfeeding mothers with a private space to nurse or extract breast milk.

The second set of laws "generally" gives mothers the right to breastfeed in public, Jacobson said. "If you want to breastfeed in the food court at the mall, there's not a lot anyone can do to stop you," she said.

So far, there is not much case law on the issue. "It's a relatively new area of the law, and there might be some exceptions to where a mother can breastfeed, but there's none written in the law." For instance, someone might argue that breastfeeding could pose a safety risk for police or corrections officers.

That was the case for a woman who was not permitted to nurse in a visiting area at a state prison a few years ago, Jacobsen said. The CHRO is representing the woman, who was denied the right to breastfeed at an administratve hearing. The case has been appealed to the Superior Court in New Britain.

A court fight on the issue was apparently not something the Judicial Branch wanted to get involved in. Hebert, the court spokeswoman, immediately admitted the court marshal was wrong. The marshal apologized to Gendron's sister after the incident, according to published reports.

Accomodations For Jurors

In addition to the apology, Chief Court Administrator Patrick Carroll III sent out a document to high-ranking court administrative officials reminding them of the law. The memo is to be distributed to all Judicial Branch employees, Hebert said, adding, "The Judicial Branch recognizes the importance of one's right to breastfeed in a place that of public accomodation and expects all employees to be aware of the law."

Griswold, head of the Breastfeeding Coalition, was pleased that the Judicial Branch was taking the matter seriously. But at the same time, she said, the coalition was surprised to be dealing with another event so similar to the one that prompted the state law in the first place.

In 2011, Rachel Jackson was called for jury duty at the Superior Court in Rockville. She was certain the court would have a room or private area where she could pump her milk for her infant son. But when she called the courthouse, Jackson, who is now on the breastfeeding coalition's board, said she was shocked at what she heard.

"They said, there probably will be some place, but if not, you can pump in your car," she recalled in published reports. "This was a public building, so I would have thought there would be some accomodations."

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