A breastfeeding mum was told to “move on” from a lounge outside high-end shops in the Pacific Fair Shopping Centre.
The woman subsequently took to social media to express her disgust over the incident.
Shopping centre management has since apologised, describing the incident as a “misinterpretation”.
However, it says it will now re-train staff so they better understand discrimination laws.
Breastfeeding mum told to ‘move on’ high-end shops
On Saturday, Shannon Laverty went to Pacific Fair Shopping Centre on the Gold Coast with her three-week-old son Shep.
She told ABC News she stopped at lounge seats located outside some luxury stores to breastfeed.
“I sat down on the public lounge area in front of the concierge desk and when my son was latched on my breast, this woman came running over.
“She said, ‘Excuse me, you know there’s a facility for that?’
“She added, ‘For your information, there’s a facility you can change the baby’s nappy, there’s also hot water and milk powder so you don’t need to use your body’.
“My jaw just dropped, and I said, ‘I’m fine here”.
When she refused to move, Laverty said the woman then pointed out that she was seated in the “high end” section of the shopping centre.
Laverty told ABC News she felt shocked and overwhelmed by the incident, which she later detailed on social media.
Breastfeeding discrimination unlawful
Discrimination lawyer Stephen Dryley-Collins says discriminating against someone who is breastfeeding is unlawful.
“You cannot treat a woman differently, or less favourably, because she is breastfeeding,” he said.
“And that includes telling them they can’t breastfeed in a particular location, and directing them to move on.
“The law is clear – women can breastfeed in public places, and that includes cafes, libraries, cinemas, on public transport and in shopping centres.”
Mr Dryley-Collins says Ms Laverty is eligible to make a claim for unlawful discrimination.
“This incident, as described, certainly sounds like unlawful breastfeeding discrimination, therefore the woman has the option of filing a claim in the Queensland Human Rights Commission,” he said.
Discrimination Claims can result in compensation pay outs, in addition to the offending party making an apology, or committing to training staff.
Pacific Fair apologises
A Pacific Fair spokesperson said it is “truly sorry” for the incident, which “doesn’t meet our standards of customer care”.
They also committed to providing additional training to staff to “re-educate them on its policies”.
The spokesperson said it “has always been our policy that mothers are free to breastfeed anywhere at Pacific Fair”.
However, it denied the staff member asked Ms Laverty to “move on”, describing the incident as a “misinterpretation”.
“Unfortunately while a member of staff was attempting to explain the various options available at the centre, there may have been a misinterpretation which caused offence to the customer.
“(She) was never required to move on whilst feeding.
“Pacific Fair immediately offered direct apologies to the customer from both senior customer service staff as well as senior centre management.
“Pacific Fair is also grateful for the opportunity to reaffirm our position that breastfeeding mothers are welcome to breastfeed wherever they are most comfortable.”
Stephen Dryley-Collins says those who experience discrimination because they are breastfeeding should seek urgent expert advice.
“We regularly file claims in the Human Rights Commission on behalf of our clients, and negotiate fair compensation,” he said.
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