A settlement agreement was recently announced between AC Transit and current and former pregnant employees.
AC Transit recently agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by drivers who argued the agency violated state law when it failed to accommodate female bus drivers when they were pregnant and unable to work. As part of the settlement, the agency made changes to its policies to better accommodate pregnant bus drivers in the future.
What kind of conditions were the pregnant drivers expected to work in, though? Well, according to the suit, the plaintiffs were allegedly “exposed to carbon monoxide fumes, had to drive while far along in pregnancy and denied adequate lactation accommodations after giving birth.” Additionally, “without any modified work arrangements, the women said they were forced to take unpaid leaves.”
The $340,000 settlement was approved earlier this week by the Alameda County Superior Court. Of the settlement funds, each of the 30 class members will receive $5,410. Additionally, the settlement requires the agency to implement policy changes that “include considering modified assignments for employees temporarily disabled by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.” On top of that, AC Transit must also train managers on “accommodations and distribute a ‘Mommy Guide’ to give pregnant and lactating women support.”
When commenting on the settlement agreement, Felicia Medina, an attorney with Medina Orthwein LLC, said:
“These changes would have been in place a long time ago if it was men who lactated…We are very proud of our results…This is a very important precedent for the state of California.”
AC Transit spokesman Robert Lyles also chimed in and said, “despite a lawsuit, AC Transit has always been committed to its employees.”
Lyles added that the mandatory policy changes “provide an option to pregnant and lactating mothers, a supportive environment for women who work for AC Transit and creates potential for those who are looking for employment, since we are now a pretty inclusive employer.”
The suit was originally filed after four current and former female bus drivers filed complaints and eventually a class-action lawsuit over the poor working conditions for pregnant employees. The former drivers included “Jada Edward, Javonne Knight, Christy Pullum, and Nikki McNaulty.” According to McNaulty, “she tried to get a desk job so she wouldn’t have to inhale bus fumes while she was five months pregnant, and when it wasn’t granted, took unpaid leave three months before her scheduled maternity leave.” She added that she was “forced to take unpaid leaves of absence during her three pregnancies.”
Edward claimed it became more and more difficult to work as her pregnancy progressed to the third trimester. Despite her discomfort, she “was not granted accommodations, despite a doctor’s note.” Instead, she had to go on disability leave a month sooner than planned. Knight also had to take unpaid leave prior to her maternity leave when she wasn’t granted accommodations. She also had a doctor’s note.
Pullum, another former driver, was “forced to take medical leave during two pregnancies because the agency couldn’t accommodate her, even with a doctor’s note,” according to the suit. After she gave birth, she was unable to find a shift that worked with her lactation schedule. As a result, she had to meet her “husband and newborn son during breaks to breastfeed him in a car.”