Frontier Airlines is being sued over allegations of pregnancy discrimination.
Frontier Airlines is at the center of a class-action lawsuit after a federal court judge denied the motion to “dismiss the case filed by four flight attendants who allege the Denver-based airline discriminates against pregnant and breastfeeding employees.” When requesting for the suit to be dismissed, Frontier said the four female flight attendants lacked standing, “meaning the way in which they were harmed by the basis of the lawsuit.” The airline said that none of the women are currently pregnant, though they have been in the past. Additionally, they “did not allege in their lawsuit that another pregnancy was imminent.”
The suit was filed by the ACLU, the ACLU of Colorado, Holwell Shuster & Goldberg LLP and Towards Justice in U.S. District Court in Denver back in December 2019. It argues that “employees who are nursing are not provided adequate breaks and sanitary locations to express breast milk.” Additionally, “pilots and flight attendants are barred from flying after 32 weeks of pregnancy and are not provided alternative duties, putting them out of work,” the suit states.
While discussing the allegations, Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Women’s Rights Project, said:
“It’s past time for Frontier Airlines, and the airline industry as a whole, to ensure flight attendants and pilots have access to the basic, common-sense accommodations they need to continue working while they’re pregnant or breastfeeding…Pregnancy discrimination was outlawed 40 years ago and there is no reason it should still be happening today.”
The lead plaintiff is Melissa Hodgkins. She said:
“I love my job, and it was not an easy decision to bring a lawsuit against my employer. But no one else should have to face the choices I faced. I’m encouraged that the court recognized that our case is valid.”
In a statement from Jayme Jonat, partner at Holwell Shuster & Goldberg and a member of the litigation team that brought the lawsuits, she said:
“This decision is an important step towards supporting working mothers in the airline industry on their paths to career success. We’re glad the court recognized that Frontier’s failure to provide accommodations for pregnant and breastfeeding flight attendants is a concrete injury which continues to affect each plaintiff as they work for Frontier and live under a real specter of discrimination.”
Among the allegations, the plaintiffs claim “flight attendants are forced to pump breast milk in unsanitary airplane lavatories and were not allowed to pump while they were on duty.” As a result, the airline is being accused of “violating anti-discrimination laws, the Family and Medical Leave Act and state law requiring employers to provide accommodations for pumping.”
Unfortunately, pregnancy discrimination still happens far too often. Even with a handful of federal laws in place to protect pregnant and nursing women, like FMLA, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, women are still having to fight for their rights against their employers. Studies have also found that unlike other types of discrimination, pregnancy discrimination “tends to be more of a targeted response, often occurring at or shortly after the moment of disclosure.” A report from the Center for Employment Equity that looked at pregnancy discrimination in the workplace found “pregnancy discrimination also appears to be more common in male-dominated fields and that more female managers can be a helpful factor in reducing such discrimination.”