Female pilots and flight attendants are suing Frontier Airlines alleging that the airline discriminated against pregnant women and new moms.
According to a federal lawsuit filed earlier this week, Frontier forced the women to take extended and largely unpaid leave while pregnant and refused to accommodate breastfeeding. The women said Frontier made both pilots and flight attendants stop flying weeks and even months before their due dates without providing paid leave or alternative work arrangements.
The lawsuits also accuse Frontier of failing to provide time and space for breastfeeding mothers to pump breast milk and prohibited pilots from pumping during flights.
“It’s not as though we’re going to be pumping during takeoff and landing,” Shannon Kiedrowski, a pilot with the company told NPR.
Kiedrowski added that pilots routinely use restrooms during long flights while a co-pilot remains in the cockpit. She argues that taking a brief to pump would not be much different.
After returning to work after the birth of her second child, Kiedrowski stated that she was approached by Human Resources after word got around that she was breastfeeding.
“They questioned why I was pumping, why I felt the need to breastfeed my child, implying that, ‘You’re a pilot. And really, there’s no place for you if you need to pump at work,’ ” Kiedrowski said.
The Affordable Care Act requires US workplaces to offer private, non-bathroom spaces for women who need to pump. The legislation, however, has several exemptions, including airlines.
Becky Lutte, an aviation professor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, told NPR that the lawsuit reflects a larger challenge in the U.S. airline industry where only 5% of pilots industrywide are women.
In a statement, a Frontier spokesperson said that “Frontier offers a number of accommodations for pregnant and lactating pilots and flight attendants within the bounds of protecting public safety, which is always our top priority,” and said that the airline denies the allegations and will defend vigorously against the lawsuits.