Friday, December 16, 2011

Woman Sues After Run-In With TSA Agents Over Breast Milk

A nursing mother who says Transportation Security Administration agents "harassed, abused and humiliated" her for 40 minutes and made her stand in a glass enclosure in front of other airline passengers because she requested an alternate screening process so her breast milk would not be exposed to radiation is taking her case to court. Stacey Armato sued the Department of Homeland Security, the TSA and four TSA agents for false imprisonment, false light, intentional infliction of emotional distress. She says she was traveling out of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Feb. 1, 2010 -- like she did a week prior -- when she asked that agents do not place her "7 month old son's dinner feeding" through the X-ray, instead use an alternate screening method, out of fear it would be contaminated. The agents were not having it.
During the week before, Armato says, she "requested that the same TSA agents, including Does 1-3 and defendant [William] Wiseman perform the 'alternate screening' process for her breast milk, which was considered a 'medical liquid' by the TSA's own guidelines. These same TSA agents, a week prior to February 1, 2010, harassed plaintiff for requesting alternate screening until confirming their own regulations. After confining plaintiff for approximately 40 minutes and harassing plaintiff for not simply 'pumping and dumping' her breast milk, the TSA finally permitted her to pass through security with the 'alternate screening' process for her breast milk. On that occasion, Plaintiff barely made her flight. Plaintiff filed a complaint with the TSA regarding this incident." Armato claims that when she asked that her breast milk not be X-rayed, she was placed in a glass "special inspection area" while the TSA employees "looked into" the guidelines on breast milk. The employees refused to allow her to retrieve a copy of the guidelines, which she had in one of her bags, she says. When she "requested to speak with a manager, her requests were refused and plaintiff was told 'be quiet,' to 'do as she was told' and that she was not to move," according to the complaint. A police officer was called, and Armato says she tried to explain that "breast milk was classified as a 'medical liquid' and does not need to pass through an X-ray machine." The officer told her that "the TSA agents were 'waiting for her' because plaintiff had made this request in the past," and "that she should go along with the TSA 'horse and pony show' or he would be forced to arrest her per the TSA's request," according to the complaint. After standing for 37 minutes in the inspection area, a TSA employee performed a second body inspection of Armato, though she says she had already gone through the X-ray screening. Armato says she was then offered two choices by the employee and William Wiseman, a manager: "put the breast milk through the X-ray machine, or dump it in the trash." Armato says Wiseman reviewed the TSA guidelines she had printed, but refused her request for alternate screening. She says that when she "pointed out the rule that breast milk is entitled to alternate screening Wiseman stated 'well they aren't today.'" Armato says Wiseman finally told her "that she could leave the security area and sit on the floor and pour her breast milk into eight 1.5 oz containers, and that plaintiff must repeat the entire security screening process over again." She says Wiseman took photos of her breast milk and wrote down her name, address and phone number and put it in his pocket.

source: Courthouse News
Stacey says the agents were retaliating against her for requesting they perform the alternate screening test during her trip in Jan. 2010. She says she requested surveillance footage of the scene that day, but according to her lawsuit, 30 minutes of tape are missing, "including where Wiseman demanded plaintiff's personal information on a piece of paper which he put in his pocket and kept, as well as the portion where Wiseman photographed plaintiff's breast milk." She's seeking unspecified amount in compensatory and punitive damages.
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