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Breast-feeding advocate claims discrimination

Crystal Scott, pictured with her sons Aedan, 4, and Roman, 1, has been at the center of a controversy after two airmen at Fairchild Air Force Base posed for photos of them breast-feeding in uniform. (Colin Mulvany)
Crystal Scott, pictured with her sons Aedan, 4, and Roman, 1, has been at the center of a controversy after two airmen at Fairchild Air Force Base posed for photos of them breast-feeding in uniform. (Colin Mulvany)

A Spokane mom and breast-feeding advocate says her former employer wrongfully terminated her after a media frenzy surrounding photos of two military moms breast-feeding in Air Force uniforms.

Crystal Scott, a civilian and the program director for Mom2Mom Breast Feeding Support Group at Fairchild Air Force Base, said she was fired June 1 from her job as a mobile X-ray technician at Schryver Medical following a history of discrimination and harassment at the company.

The termination occurred just weeks after she coordinated the photos, which went viral on the Web and stirred controversy at Fairchild. Scott said Schryver used her publicity as an excuse to fire her.

Schryver countered that bad behavior on the job was the reason for the termination, saying Scott used company time to field media requests.

Scott has filed a lawsuit.

“It’s abundantly clear there was discrimination going on … and retaliation and that this was a wrongful termination,” said her attorney, Patricia Buchanan, of Seattle-based firm Patterson Buchanan Fobes Leitch & Kalzer. “Crystal has been a stellar employee from day one.”

Her claims include discrimination, harassment, wage discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation and defamation.

Scott said after voicing concerns to her boss, her boss told her not to file formal complaints. She was fired about two weeks later, she said, and thinks the company used the media attention surrounding the photos as an excuse. A story about the photos ran in The Spokesman-Review on June 1.

“It’s just so sad because Mom2Mom’s mission is to support and educate breast-feeding moms,” Scott said. “That’s our ultimate mission, and they used that to fire me.”

She also claims in the lawsuit that a co-worker called her names such as “baby” and criticized her as “selfish” and “unprofessional.” She said men were shown preferential treatment through higher pay for similar jobs and better scheduling for men with less seniority.

“In addition to speaking out for breast-feeding mothers, Crystal Scott had also complained to Schryver about gender inequality and was told not to file a formal written complaint,” read the complaint, which was filed in King County Superior Court.

Schryver Medical denies the allegations.

“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,” President Jay Schryver said in a prepared statement. “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 ahold of Ms. Scott, she informed them that she was sick and would not be working.”

Schryver said company records, including GPS data from a company van that was assigned to Scott, showed she was actually at a local media outlet doing interviews 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,” Schryver said. “That said, those circumstances simply do not excuse her from violating the reasonable expectations of her employer.”

Scott said someone from the company came and knocked on her door with the news, and that she was not provided any explanation in writing. However, Schryver said Scott “has been advised of these reasons in detail, in writing.”

“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,” Schryver said.

Scott graduated from Carrington College in January 2011 and was an at-will employee of Schryver Medical, which is headquartered in Colorado, for 16 months. She was working at its Spokane Valley location when she was fired. Scott is seeking damages including reinstatement, back pay, attorney’s fees, and for emotional distress and reputation damages.

“I was not expecting it,” Scott said of the termination. “I’m a hard worker.”

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