AC Transit is at the center of a class-action lawsuit over allegations that it discriminated against pregnant and breastfeeding employees. The suit also alleges that women are often “laughed at when requesting accommodations for their pregnancies.” The lawsuit was officially filed in Alameda County Superior Court and argues the “public transit agency, which serves Alameda and Contra Costa counties, fails to meet the needs of pregnant or breastfeeding employees.”
AC Transit is at the center of a class-action lawsuit over allegations that it discriminated against pregnant and breastfeeding employees. The suit also alleges that women are often “laughed at when requesting accommodations for their pregnancies.” The lawsuit was officially filed in Alameda County Superior Court and argues the “public transit agency, which serves Alameda and Contra Costa counties, fails to meet the needs of pregnant or breastfeeding employees.” The suit further states:
“AC Transit employees who become pregnant or who are lactating face a workplace culture in which women who want both a career and a family are laughed at for asking for too much.”
In response to the allegations, Robert Lyles, the media affairs manager for AC Transit, said that “although the statements in the lawsuit are provocative, they’re not a confirmation of fact.” He added:
“In this light, we ask the public to withhold judgment as we work to uncover the circumstances giving rise to this issue…We want our employees and our riders to know that AC Transit has a robust policy of addressing complaints – including lawsuits – thoroughly and expeditiously.”
What kind of discrimination are or have the plaintiffs faced, though? Well, according to the suit, AC Transit “refuses to provide breaks for breastfeeding mothers so they can continue to lactate and feed their babies up to a year, as required by state law.” As a result, many mothers have had to drive while engorged, and many have even seen their milk supply dry up as a result.
One of the plaintiffs, Nikki McNaulty, began driving as a bus driver with AC Transit back in 2013. During the time she has had three pregnancies. According to the suit, during her second pregnancy she “asked for lactation accommodations but was allegedly denied.” She was also allegedly “forced to leave three months before medically necessary on an unpaid leave of absence during one of her pregnancies.”
The suit states that it’s not uncommon for pregnant employees to have to choose between driving “without reasonable accommodation or going on disability leave early.” Then, when they return to work while breastfeeding, “some are forced to drive while painfully engorged and risk losing potential milk for their newborns.” Some, like McNaulty, are even retaliated against when they voice complaints about the discriminatory treatment.
To make matters worse, the suit also argues that breastfeeding and pregnant bus drivers are often “exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning because of the old equipment on the field.” McNaulty alleges that she was “five months pregnant when she began experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning such as vomiting, headaches and burning sensations from soot residue in her nose.” When she voiced complaints about the carbon monoxide to the company’s HR department, it “denied her a modified work transfer until she was 36 weeks pregnant and instead told her to take disability leave.” The transit company also blamed McNaulty’s “symptoms on her pregnancy and not carbon monoxide poisoning.”
As part of the class-action suit, the plaintiffs claim the transit company violated the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Leave Law.