‘It presents a legal issue,’ local lawyer analyzes nursing moms’ denial of entrance to volleyball tournament

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DENVER (KDVR) — Legal questions have arisen after several nursing mothers were not allowed into the Colorado Convention Center for a volleyball tournament because they had their breastfeeding babies with them.

“In this case, I do think that the event was being held at a place of accommodation at the Colorado Convention Center. And the Colorado Convention Center by virtue of its selling to the public, is obligated to ensure that they’re not discriminating against people on the basis of sex and any number of protected characteristics,” Kimberly Jones, managing partner of Jones Law Firm in Littleton said.

“And in other contexts, discrimination on account of sex has been deemed to include lactation discrimination. Discrimination against women who are breastfeeding mothers. So I certainly do think it presents a legal issue,” Jones said.

One coach who is nursing said she came out to this tournament with her team, hosted by Colorado Crossroads. She said she was able to bring her 4-month-old baby in on Friday when a security guard wasn’t sure of the policy. But was not allowed on Saturday after she was stopped by security at the front door. 

“In fact, Colorado Crossroads’ organization says on its website that it does comply with the requirements of building and of the law with respect to COVID. So why with respect to a nursing mother that would be different, I’m not really sure,” Jones said.

According to Colorado law, “A mother may breastfeed in any place she has a right to be.” Jones said the Colorado legislature has made clear that the state encourages the removal of societal boundaries for breastfeeding women.

“Colorado has taken an important step towards normalizing breastfeeding in public and certainly there are laws in Colorado that are progressive and that protect a woman’s right to express breastmilk in the workplace,” Jones said.

“So those are all great things but they don’t matter if there is no enforcement of them. If the convention center and the other organizations that are involved are kind of ignoring that that’s out there and not complying with it, there has to be some sort of recourse for that,” Jones said.

The tournament director, Kay Rogness has held firm on the decision to not allow the nursing coaches and other mothers breastfeeding their babies into the event at the Colorado Convention Center.

“They obviously are in an impossible situation of making the choice to feed their children or to coach the event they traveled here to coach,” Jones said.

“It’s important that they get the word out there about how they were treated so that the public has a right to consider whether and in what way our state is going to tolerate that kind of behavior.”

Jones said if Colorado Crossroads was going to have this as a policy, the organization should have communicated that ahead of time.

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