Employees Allege Frontier Airlines Discriminates Against New And Nursing Parents
In a pair of new lawsuits filed on Dec. 10, four pilots and four flight attendants that work for Frontier Airlines say that the airline refused to accommodate breastfeeding parents by prohibiting pumping on the job and not providing legally mandated accommodations. The group also claims the airline often forced pregnant employees to go on largely unpaid leave well before their due dates. These discretions led these employees taking largely unpaid leaves after giving birth.
“I am filing this lawsuit for the women who will come next — so they never feel like they are forced to choose between caring for themselves and their families and doing the work that they love,” plaintiff and pilot Brandy Beck, who has been flying for Frontier since 2003, said in a statement.
According to the ACLU, which has been working with the Frontier pilots and flight attendants, the employees decided to sue the airline after their attempts to negotiate better accommodations for pregnant and nursing employees were unsuccessful.
“We initially filed a complaint with the EEOC about Frontier’s problematic policies in 2016,” Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney, ACLU Women’s Rights Project, told Supermajority News. “Frontier has been largely unresponsive and has not made the commonsense changes we requested, including offering temporary ground positions for employees when they can no longer fly and providing clean, accessible places to pump.”
While most workers in the United States have the right to a clean, accessible place to pump at work thanks to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employees in the service, construction, and airline industries often struggle to get proper accommodations to do so. The inability to pump at work can both affect a nursing parent’s milk supply and lead to health conditions like infections.
“For a lot of women the schedule and routine is crucial,” Sarah Brafman of A Better Balance, an organization that promotes better policies for working parents, told Supermajority News in November of the need for workplaces to give the proper break time and facilities to nursing employees. “It is also crucial for employers to be supportive [of a parent’s right to pump] by providing that space and time.”
The Frontier employees at the center of the two lawsuits say that in addition to getting airline workers who are parents the support they need, they hope their cases will also lead to widespread change when it comes to parental rights at work.
“In 2019, all employers in every industry should have commonplace policies in place to accommodate such a predictable occurrence as employee pregnancy, and the airline industry is no exception,” said Sherwin. “It’s time for Frontier, and the airline industry as a whole, to catch up with the times.”