A Skokie woman is suing Cook County, claiming a sheriff's deputy violated her right to breastfeed by demanding she move from a courthouse lobby to a public bathroom -- a request she says was not only illegal, but "degrading."
Natalie Petrovic, of Skokie, filed the suit Wednesday in Cook County Circuit Court against Sheriff Tom Dart and Cook County.
Petrovic claims she was at the Cook County Municipal Courthouse in Skokie on April 18, waiting to apply for food-assistance benefits when the deputy approached her, the suit said.
She had been breastfeeding her 7-week-old daughter in a seating area reserved for participants in the assistance program, covering the right side of her body and her infant with a small blanket, the suit said.
The female sheriff's deputy allegedly confronted Petrovic and asked in a "stern and authoritative tone of voice" if she was breastfeeding, according to the suit. When Petrovic replied she was, the deputy commanded her to stop breastfeeding, and said if she wanted to breastfeed her child in the courthouse, she would have to do it in the bathroom.
Illinois legislators passed the state's Right to Breastfeed Act in 2004, which says mothers may breastfeed their babies in any public or private location where they are otherwise allowed to be, even if they aren't modestly covered.
Petrovic claims in the suit her child was still hungry and she knew she had a legal right to breastfeed where she was, but that she stopped because she didn't want to risk getting kicked out of the courthouse and disrupting her application for benefits, the suit said.
Feeding her baby in a public bathroom would have been "unsanitary, uncomfortable and degrading," Petrovic claims in the suit.
She further claims she stopped in the sheriff's office on her way out of the courthouse to make a formal complaint against the deputy, but was unable to because no staff member gave her a complaint form or told her how she could file a complaint.
Petrovic's suit seeks an injunction preventing courthouse staff from denying any other women their right to breastfeed there, plus attorney's fees and the costs of the suit.
A Cook County Sheriff's office spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.