Woman Behind Controversial Military Breastfeeding Photo is Fired from Her Civilian Job
Crystal Scott, an Army veteran, military spouse, and the program director of the Mom2Mom breastfeeding awareness group at Fairchild Air Force Base, was terminated by Schryver Medical, a provider of X-rays, EKGs, ultrasounds, and other medical digital imaging services, on June 1.
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“She was fired due to her passion about the Mom2Mom breastfeeding campaign and speaking out on gender equality and women’s rights,” her lawyer, Patricia (Pat) K. Buchanan, told Yahoo! Shine in an interview on Friday.
“This kind of took us by surprise,” Schryver Medical’s president, Jay Schryver, told Yahoo! Shine on the phone on Friday. He issued a formal statement soon after.
“Crystal Scott was terminated by the company on June 1st for various legitimate employment-related reasons,” he wrote in the statement. “Amongst other things, on the day prior to her termination, Ms. Scott had clocked in to the company’s timekeeping system and had been assigned time-sensitive tasks that were wholly ignored. Thereafter, Ms. Scott ignored the company’s repeated attempts to contact her to inquire as to her whereabouts and status of her job assignments. When the company finally did get a hold of Ms. Scott, she informed them that she was sick and would not be working. Based on company records – including GPS data from a company van that had been assigned to her – Ms. Scott was actually at a local media outlet conducting personal business, on company time, using company equipment as transportation.”
“Schryver Medical can certainly understand the excitement Ms. Scott experienced in being courted by the media, both on a personal level and as a means to effectively promote her cause,” he continued. “That said, those circumstances simply do not excuse her from violating the reasonable expectations of her employer.” He said that Scott had been informed of her infractions “in detail, in writing,” and “at no time did Schryver Medical tell Crystal Scott that she was terminated due to any ‘media attention,’ as that contention is simply not true.”
The photo that caused the initial uproar featured two military moms breastfeeding their babies while wearing their Air National Guard uniforms. While many people were supportive of the women’s right to breastfeed whenever necessary, others felt that the picture was disrespectful to the military.
Scott — who served in the Army from 2000 to 2006, including a tour in Iraq, and whose husband is still in the military — was surprised by the outrage. “I’m an X-ray tech and I breastfeed in my uniform all the time,” she told Yahoo! Shine in an interview on May 30, the day the controversy ignited. “Granted they’re scrubs. But people do it all the time in their uniforms. If you have a hungry baby, why would you take the time to change completely?”
The two members of the Air National Guard who appeared in the controversial photo, Terran Echegoyen-McCabe and Christina Luna have been reprimanded because the photo “violated a policy that forbids military members from using the uniform to further a cause, promote a product or imply an endorsement,” the Air Force Times reported.
“The uniform was misused. That’s against regulations,” Captain Keith Kosik, a spokesman for the Washington National Guard, told the Air Force Times. “I want to be very, very clear about this. Our issue is not, nor has it ever been, about breastfeeding. It has to do with honoring the uniform and making sure it’s not misused. I can’t wear my uniform to a political rally, to try to sell you something or push an ideology. That was our point of contention.”
But Scott’s job was with a private employer, which makes her case much less clear.
Her lawyer says that the publicity over the photos was only part of the reason Scott lost her job. In May, Scott had complained about gender bias at Schryver Medical, where she had been working for about 16 months, Buchanan says. Her boss asked her not to file a formal complaint, saying that “he’d handle it,” Buchanan says. Two weeks later, Scott was fired.
According to Buchanan, Scott had complained to her supervisor about favoritism shown toward male employees and condescending statements and name-calling aimed at women in the office. “When she asked to be on the day shift, which she was entitled to by seniority, she was treated very condescendingly and was called names,” Buchanan said, including things like “You’re a baby” and “You’re a woman, you can’t go there, it’s scary.” Still, Scott agreed not to file a formal complaint at the time, in part because “she loved her job,” Buchanan says.
“She can’t file a complaint retroactively, but she can file a lawsuit for gender equality discrimination,” Buchanan told Yahoo! Shine. “That decision hasn’t been made yet, but it’s an option, certainly.”
The company disagrees with Scott’s version of events. “Schryver Medical has strict company policies against any type of discrimination and at no time has the company discriminated against Crystal Scott in any form or fashion,” Jay Schryver said. “Quite frankly, her current allegations in the media and from her counsel are surprising given her actions, and will be defended vigorously by Schryver Medical.”