Frontier Airlines has agreed to make and keep several changes intended to protect the employment and sick leave of pregnant or lactating flight attendants.
Budget carrier Frontier Airlines has settled a lawsuit filed by flight attendants who claimed the company discriminated against them during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
According to The Associated Press, the Denver-based airline agreed to keep or change several policies to meet the needs of flight attendants who are pregnant or lactating.
The lawsuit, which was filed in 2019 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, alleged that Frontier forced flight attendants to take unpaid leave for any and all pregnancy-related absences.
The company also purportedly prevented women from pumping breast milk while at work.
When the lawsuit was first filed, A.C.L.U. staff attorney Sara Neel said that Frontier effectively ignored the needs of its female pilots and flight attendants—in many cases, effectively coercing women into abandoning any aspirations of motherhood.
“As a result of Frontier’s head-in-the-sand approach to pregnancy, our clients have been forced to choose between a profession they love and their ability to give birth and care for themselves and their newborns,” Neel said. “More than 40 years since workplace pregnancy discrimination was outlawed, it is senseless, outdated, and frankly outrageous that we are still litigating such basic workplace protections for pregnant workers.”
At the time, Frontier said that it offered “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.”
Neel told Westword in 2019 that the lawsuit intended to enhance gender equality in the air travel industry.
“This is obviously an important case to try and bring equality to an industry that is, certainly for the pilots, very male-dominated,” Neel told Westword. “We want to provide room for women in that field, and we want to help flight attendants who want to nurse their children—who want to find a way to keep their job and exercise that option as a mother.”
The Associated Press notes that the settlement requires Frontier to clarify that employees cannot be disciplined for taking pregnancy-related absences.
Furthermore, flight attendants who cannot fly because they are pregnant or lactating will be provided the same accommodations as employees who have other medical conditions. This includes medical leave and temporary reassignments to ground duty.
Frontier will also retain a recent change allowing flight attendants to wear wearable breast pumps in-flight, and will provide lactation facilities at its base locations across the United States.
“Future flight attendants won’t have to worry about how they are going to fit in pumping between flights or wonder where they will be able to pump safely,” flight attendant and plaintiff Melissa Hodgkins said in a statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union. “I gave up breastfeeding to provide for my family, and no one should have to make that choice again.”
Frontier has since signaled that it is pleased with the settlement.
“We’re proud to be at the forefront of accommodating the needs of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers in the airline industry,” Frontier Vice President of Labor Relations Jacalyn Peter said in a press release. “Thanks in part to advances in wearable lactation technology, the parties were able to reach an amicable resolution of this case that does not jeopardize public safety.”