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July 30th, 2014

Protecting the Rights of Breastfeeding Mothers

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced an agreement with Barnes & Noble, Inc. that will protect the rights of nursing mothers seeking to breastfeed at its stores in New York. The Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau opened an investigation into the national chain following a March 16 incident in which a woman was asked to cover up or leave the company’s Nanuet, New York, store while breastfeeding her infant son. Under New York State law, a mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, so long as she otherwise has the right to be there, regardless of whether she is covered while nursing. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the law’s passage.

"All New York residents, including breastfeeding mothers, must be afforded equal protection under the law," Attorney General Schneiderman said. "No mother should endure harassment for breastfeeding her baby in public. There is one set of rules for everyone in New York, and I applaud Barnes & Noble for taking steps to ensure that moms are not harassed or discriminated against."

Under the agreement, Barnes & Noble will strengthen its customer complaint resolution procedures with respect to the handling of complaints received from breastfeeding mothers, train all New York store employees and managers on its breastfeeding policy, which prohibits employees from interfering with a mother’s right to breastfeed at its stores, and display the international symbol for breastfeeding at the entrances to its New York stores. In addition, the company will pay $10,000 to Rockland County to support the activities of its Breastfeeding Promotion and Support Program.

Barnes & Noble operates 42 stores in New York State: 13 in New York City, eight in the Mid-Hudson region; seven on Long Island; six in Western New York; three in the Southern Tier region; two in the Capital Region; two in Central New York, and one in the Mohawk Valley.

Dr. Susan Vierczhalek, chairperson of the New York Statewide Breastfeeding Coalition, said, "Mothers who choose to breastfeed their children must not be discouraged from doing so when in public. We applaud Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for bringing attention to this very important issue and for working to remove barriers to breastfeeding."

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said, "Health care providers and the law make clear that families who choose to breastfeed their children should be able to do so whenever and wherever necessary. We thank the Attorney General’s Office for taking steps to ensure that women seeking to exercise their right to breastfeed in New York State are able to do so."

The Civil Rights Bureau of the Attorney General’s Office is committed to combating unlawful harassment and discrimination and protecting reproductive rights across New York State. To file a complaint, contact the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau at (212) 416-8250, or visit

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