A woman who claims she was kicked off an airplane because she was breast-feeding her baby has filed a complaint against two airlines, her attorney said.
Emily Gillette, 27, of Santa Fe, N.M., filed the complaint with the Vermont Human Rights Commission late last week against Delta Air Lines and Freedom Airlines, said her attorney, Elizabeth Boepple. Freedom was operating the Delta flight between Burlington and New York City.
Gillette said she was discreetly breast-feeding her 22-month-old daughter on Oct. 13 as their flight prepared to leave Burlington International Airport. She said she was seated by the window in the next-to-last row, her husband was seated between her and the aisle and no part of her breast was showing.
A flight attendant tried to hand her a blanket and told her to cover up, Gillette said. She declined, telling the flight attendant she had a legal right to breast-feed her baby.
Moments later, a Delta ticket agent approached and said the flight attendant had asked that the family be removed from the flight, Gillette said. She said she didn't want to make a scene and complied.
"It embarrassed me. That was my first reaction, which is a weird reaction for doing something so good for a child," Gillette said Monday.
A Freedom spokesman said Gillette was asked to leave the flight after she declined the blanket.
"A breast-feeding mother is perfectly acceptable on an aircraft, providing she is feeding the child in a discreet way," that doesn't bother others, said Paul Skellon, spokesman for Phoenix-based Freedom. "She was asked to use a blanket just to provide a little more discretion, she was given a blanket, and she refused to use it, and that's all I know."
A complaint against two airlines was filed with the Vermont Human Rights Commission, although Executive Director Robert Appel said he was barred by state law from confirming the complaint. He said state law allows a mother to breast-feed in public.
The Vermont Human Rights Commission investigates complaints and determines whether discrimination may have occurred. The parties to a complaint are given six months to reach a settlement. If none is reached, the commission then decides whether to go to court. A complainant can file a separate suit in state court at any time.
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A clash between a nursing mother and a flight attendant has sparked a discrimination complaint, an airline investigation and a grass-roots protest.
A commuter airline has disciplined a flight attendant who ordered a passenger off a plane for refusing to cover herself with a blanket while breast-feeding her toddler.
Scores of mothers breast-fed their babies at airports around the country Tuesday in a show of support for a woman who was ordered off a plane for nursing her daughter without covering up.
The Vermont Human Rights Commission rejects the airlines' claims that federal regulations top the state's right-to-breastfeed law.