A group of female flight attendants represented by the Colorado arm of American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a proposed class action in which they allege they were discriminated against by Frontier Airlines while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Coinciding with the filing of a non-class action case covering similar allegations made by female Frontier pilots, the lawsuit charges that pregnant flight attendants have encountered “mounting obstacles” that have effectively “forced them to make impossible choices between their families and their livelihood” while working for the airline. The plaintiffs say that while they assumed they would be able to continue working while raising their children, Frontier Airlines wholly failed to accommodate their pregnancies and breastfeeding needs while levying “serious penalties, both at and outside of work, simply because they had children.”
According to the lawsuit, female Frontier flight attendants were disciplined for pregnancy-related absences before eventually being “forced” into unpaid leave for “weeks or months” before their due dates, depriving them of income “when they needed it the most.” While a lack of parental leave and short stints of unpaid leave required under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) made it necessary for proposed class members still breastfeeding newborns to return to work, Frontier, the suit scathes, “refused to make it possible for them to pump breast milk on the job.”
“This left Plaintiffs with the Hobson’s choice of continuing to breastfeed or earning a paycheck,” the suit reads.
As the lawsuit tells it, proposed class members, as a result of Frontier Airlines’ policies, were left to either give up breastfeeding altogether, take unpaid leave or work under conditions the plaintiffs stress have caused “physical pain and emotional distress and have put their health at risk.” Further, the case, describing one plaintiff’s alleged situation, says the woman daily feared losing her job, and consequently “made the heartbreaking decision to give up breastfeeding” in order to return to work. Another plaintiff claims that when faced with a similar decision, Frontier “ignored” her requests for a temporary ground-based role that would allow her to express breastmilk.
On a broader scale, the lawsuit claims the plaintiffs’ allegations described herein are part of a “long and unfortunate history of sex discrimination in the airline industry as a whole.” The complaint provides that while some strides have been made in eradicating sexual discrimination from the business, “more subtle forms of discrimination persist.” According to the plaintiffs, many of the methods of discrimination that have unfortunately carried over into the present day have served to force women off the job, an occurrence the lawsuit links directly to Frontier’s allegedly antiquated policies. From the complaint:
“Plaintiffs allege on behalf of themselves and a class of all similarly situated workers that Frontier has systematically discriminated against pregnant and breastfeeding flight attendants by penalizing them for pregnancy-related absences protected under the FMLA, singling out pregnancy and breastfeeding for worse treatment than other conditions, and failing to comply with Colorado laws that require employers to accommodate pregnancy and related medical conditions and specifically mandate the provision of break time and a private, sanitary location to pump."
In addition to monetary compensation, plaintiffs seek for proposed class members policy changes at Frontier that would allow for pregnant and breastfeeding women to be able to continue working while not having to endure “the many disadvantages” the case says they currently suffer.