Kmart male employee makes breastfeeding blunder.
Over the weekend, a male Kmart worker told a young mother in Cairns, Queensland, to stop breastfeeding while she browsed the aisles or leave the store. The mother, who wants to remain anonymous, was left ashamed and stunned as she fed her infant under a green cotton wrap.
Another mother, Sarah Cannell, overheard the interaction and immediately approached the worker.
“He clearly stated it was against company policy to breastfeed in a Kmart store,” Cannell said. “Those were his exact words. He then advised us that we were more than welcome to make a complaint to his superiors.”
Kmart, say it isn’t so?
A spokesperson for Kmart has confirmed that, yes, this incident did take place. But it was not warranted. A company spokesperson has since apologised for the behaviour of the male worker and issued a statement citing:
“Kmart has an equal opportunity policy in place which clearly states that the business will not tolerate unlawful discrimination or harassment on the basis of pregnancy, potential pregnancy or breastfeeding and the features associated with these attributes.”
Clearly this employee didn’t read this memo. Nor did he check the Australian laws regarding breastfeeding in public.
Public breastfeeding is a right
Under the federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 it is illegal in Australia to discriminate against a person either directly or indirectly on the grounds of breastfeeding.
Let us explain what this means, in simple terms:
- Breastfeeding, whether feeding a newborn, an infant, a toddler or a 5-year-old, is legal.
- Breastfeeding, whether covered up or not, is legal.
- Breastfeeding, whether at home, at a park, in a shop or standing on your head in the middle of a field, is legal.
- Making a discriminatory comment about any aspect of breastfeeding is ILLEGAL.
Kmart’s apology isn’t enough … mob of mums strike back
Although the Kmart controversy appears to be the poor behaviour of one employee, his actions have sparked an overwhelming number of complaints.
Mums in the Cairns community are rallying and plan a flash mob on Saturday, 18 March, 2017 in front of the store where it happened to support public breastfeeding.
“This is merely a show of people who are demanding that the legal rights of a breastfeeding mother is recognised and acknowledged. We will be using this opportunity to further highlight the need for education to support breastfeeding mothers.”
While every day we seem to be making progress in the fight to normalise breastfeeding, it only takes one person and one incident to remind us how far society still has to come.
Breastfeeding is not easy, especially in the early weeks, and mums who choose to nurse their babies need support, not shaming.
Here’s a very tongue-in-cheek reminder about why women shouldn’t try public breastfeeding. And take a look at this post if if you’ve ever wondered whether breastfeeding would be different if men did it.