COVINGTON -- A woman who was breast-feeding her baby at the Covington Applebee's location says she was asked to take her child and go to the restroom or leave the restaurant Saturday afternoon.
Dawn Holland of Douglasville said she was visiting the restaurant on U.S. Highway 278 around 2:15 p.m. with her mother and her 20-month-old son.
"There were very few customers in the restaurant and I requested a booth in the back because I knew it was around my son's nap time and I would need to nurse," Holland said. "We were seated in the farthest booth in the back of the restaurant near the emergency exit."
Holland said she began nursing her son while she was looking at the menu, and was approached by the manager, who she later identified by the name of Dorothy Harris. Holland said Harris told her if she wished to continue nursing she would need to take her son to the restroom.
"I informed her that I had a civil right on both a state and federal level to nurse in public and that a public bathroom was not a sufficient place to nurse my child," Holland said. "She then told me that I was being indecent in her restaurant and if I would not excuse myself to the bathroom, then I would need to leave."
Holland said she then told the manager if she truly felt she was breaking any laws, then she should call the police and the manager told her that was her intention.
At that point, Holland's mother, a Henry County law enforcement officer, also called for the police.
According to Covington Police Department Public Information Officer Capt. Ken Malcom, when police arrived they ascertained no law had been broken and left the scene.
"We spoke with the complainant (Holland) who stated she had decided to leave and then stated she was asked to leave," Malcom said. "She advised she was asked to leave because she was breast-feeding her child."
Malcom said officers also spoke with the manager.
"(The manager) said she did ask the lady to leave after she was asked to reposition herself where she was not visible to the other patrons," Malcom said. "According to the manager, (Holland) disagreed with the request and the manager asked her to leave. When we arrived, the lady was already leaving the property. It was not a criminal matter."
Holland maintains the manager did not ask her to reposition herself, but instead asked her to move to the bathroom.
Further she said that when she asked the waitress for the name of the manager and the number of the corporate office, she was denied that information.
"She came back and told me the manager was not going to provide the number to the corporate office and that the manager would come back out and talk to me," Holland said. "The manager never returned to my table and I asked another waitress in my area for the manager's name (Dorothy Harris) and left the restaurant and talked to the police outside."
According to Ga. Code An. 31-1-99, "The breast-feeding of a baby is an important and basic act of nurture which should be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health. A mother may breast-feed her baby in any location where the mother and baby are otherwise authorized to be."
Holland said she has never before encountered a problem concerning breast-feeding.
"I have two children that I've nursed and I've never had anyone approach me like this," she said.
She said she did notify Applebee's corporate office of the incident.
"They informed me that the manager had already filed a report and someone who owned that part of the franchise would contact me, but I have not heard anything," Holland said.
Harris was contacted concerning this article and advised she did not wish to say anything and all comments would come from the corporate office.
In response to questions by the Citizen, Applebee's corporate communications office released the following statement:
"We're in the business of welcoming guests to our restaurants and our top priority is always to provide a friendly and comfortable environment for everyone, including nursing mothers who have the right to nurse in public. This was an unfortunate misunderstanding and we hope the guest will give us another chance to demonstrate that to her personally."