Update 06/24/2010: I got a call from Liz at corporate at 10:00am today. It was a very positive phone call! Here's the conversation that took place:
Liz: First off, is now a good time to talk? I know you're a mom and really busy.
Me: Yeah, now is good, my littlest is asleep and the older one is watching TV with his uncle.
Liz: Okay. We are so sorry about what happened the other day. There's a lot of information about what happened and I wanted to hear it from you. Is that okay?
Me: Yes, that's just fine. Tuesday night I went on a date with my husband. We had my daughter with me and she got hungry so I started to feed her. At first I was pulling my shirt up but since we were at a booth it was really awkward and I was really exposed. Being in that position made my shirt be in my armpits. So I decided to bring my breast over my neckline and nurse that way. Then the manager came up to us and said somebody had complained and asked us to cover up. I said no and my husband informed the manager that it was my legal right to nurse wherever I wanted. The manager said he understood that but this was a family restaurant and he had a shirt I could use to cover up. I said we would just leave.
Yesterday I posted about my experience on Facebook and started talking to my friends about it. One of my friends found out the law in Washington is that managers, business owners, or employees cannot ask a woman to leave, stop breastfeeding, or cover up. I knew that my right to breastfeed was protected but I thought that a manager could ask you to leave. Once I learned the full extent of the law I contacted Red Robin's Guest Services about it. I got a call from Guest Services telling me they would have the Regional Director call me.
She did call me, and I'm sorry, but I don't remember her name. She told me she was sorry, and that she was going to talk to the manager who had talked to me, and that they were sending me a gift card. However, she also said that it's not really the job of the managers to learn the laws. She also didn't give me any assurance it wouldn't happen again. She said that the managers are supposed to make the majority happy, so if a lot of people complain about a breastfeeding that the manager would probably talk to the breastfeeding mom about covering up. I feel that's not good enough. So, yeah, that's what's been going on.
Liz: Well, I again wanted to say how sorry I am that this happened. I'm a mom who has breastfed and I know how important it is. Moms who are breastfeeding should be able to feed their babies wherever they need to. The manager was in the wrong and we are going to instigate a company wide training to teach about what to do when customers complain about breastfeeding.
Me: I think that sounds like a great idea, that would be wonderful.
Liz: We have training for our managers already to train them on local laws and such, we contract with an independent third party to do our training. We will be sure to make an emphasis on breastfeeding training. We'll start immediately at the Kennewick Red Robin, but I want to let you know it's going to take a little bit of time to implement it nationwide.
Me: I understand, it's a big company. I'm glad you're implementing this.
Liz: Now, I want to make it very clear that I'm not making excuses, but it's a very sticky situation for our managers to deal with. It's hard to make everyone happy. Do you have any ideas on how to help?
Me: Yes, I do. First of all, there is a website for Washington breastfeeding laws that offers little cards you can print out. Mothers can use them to inform others about their rights and managers can give them to customers who complain to explain the laws. That way your managers can say, "I'm sorry, but it's the law," without the customer getting mad at the restaurant.
Liz: That's a great idea!
Me: They also have fliers you can print up and display in a prominent place of your restaurant informing customers of the law. Also, I know that breastfeeding laws are different everywhere. In Washington mother's rights are protected but in Idaho I know managers can ask you to leave. It would be really nice if Red Robin was a breastfeeding friendly restaurant everywhere, regardless of the laws.
Liz: That would be good. Do you have the website for those cards? That's a great idea.
Me: I don't know it off the top of my head, but I can email it to you. Do you want me to send it to guest relations or do you have a specific address you want me to use?
Liz: You can use guest relations, but here's my email address, it's really easy. [Email address]. If you have any ideas you can send them here, we want to hear them and we want to have an open dialouge.
Me: I can't think of anything else right now, but I'll ask my friends if they have any ideas. I wanted to say that I really appreciate this phone call, thank you for doing all this.
Liz: My pleasure, we just want everyone to be happy.
So overall I'm really happy with how Red Robin is handling this now. I don't think I'll organize an official nurse-in but I think it would be a good idea for mothers to go to Red Robin and nurse. Also, let them know how you feel about how you want them to uphold a mother's right to breastfeed, whether it's state law or not.
If they don't do what they say they're going to then we can take this further. But as of right now I'm feeling pretty happy.
Now please go back to the Red Robin Comment form and tell them how happy you are with their response!
I am writing you again in response to the breastfeeding discrimination incident at your Kennewick, Washtington location on 6/22
I wanted to let you know that I am thrilled with your corporate manager Liz's response to my friend Krista. Her sensitivity and understanding of the law was the kind of customer service I like to see in places I frequent.
I am very pleased to hear that Red Robin will be redoubling their efforts to make sure managers are trained in the local laws that protect a woman's right to breastfeed in their restaurants.
I would encourage you to go one step further and make Red Robin a breastfeeding friendly business, by supporting the right of moms and babies. If you decide to adopt company wide policies that are mom and baby friendly please publicize it! We would love to know. And I will make sure to share your support of breastfeeding with my blog and Twitter followers as widely as I did my criticism of this incident.
My family's tradition of celebrating the children's birthdays at your restaurant is still up in the air until I see how all of this pans out. I hope that you are true to your word and work to make Red Robin and true "family restaurant"