Four female pilots are suing Frontier Airlines over claims that the company's policies discriminate against pregnant and breastfeeding moms.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado filed discrimination charges asserting that the airline fails to provide accommodations related to pregnancy and breastfeeding for its employees. According to the four women behind the suit, who have been with the company collectively for 35 years, their employer's policies don't even provide a space for new mothers to pump breast milk at the airport or on the aircraft.
The women also charge that when pregnant pilots are no longer able to fly because they've reached the final stages of their pregnancies, the company doesn't offer any temporary work reassignments. Instead, they claim that Frontier forced them to take eight to 10 weeks of unpaid maternity leave. Since the airline's policy didn't allow them to express on a regular schedule, three of the women say they developed breast tissue infections from being forced to postpone pumping.
First Officer Erin Zielinski said she had to quit nursing earlier than she hoped because her milk supply dried up after only having 15 minutes to pump in the plane bathroom in between flights. She also described being reprimanded for pumping on the plane after her copilot complained.
"I love my job as a pilot so much, except for this issue," Zielinski said. "We don't want future moms to have to go through this. We want a better policy for everyone going forward. There are more and more female pilots being hired, including at Frontier. We don't want anyone to have to choose between flying and breastfeeding."
Currently, female pilots are only granted up to 120 days of unpaid maternity leave, and the pilots say that they received either indifference or hostility when seeking more information or support from Frontier.
According to pilot Shannon Kiedrowski, these are the "commonsense" policy changes the women are hoping for:
- Provide pilots the option of taking a temporary alternative assignment that would permit them to continue working during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
- Allow nursing mothers additional unpaid parental leave after birth, to remove the worst barriers to breastfeeding.
- Identify places where a breastfeeding pilot can pump at airports Frontier uses.
- Allow pilots who are breastfeeding to pump on aircraft if they need to.