December 10, 2019
DENVER — The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Colorado, Holwell Shuster & Goldberg LLP, and Towards Justice filed two companion lawsuits against Frontier Airlines today for systematically denying its employees basic accommodations for pregnancy and breastfeeding.
The lawsuits, filed today by four Frontier pilots and four flight attendants, challenge a host of policies that harm pregnant or breastfeeding employees. Frontier has penalized flight attendants for absences during their pregnancies, and forces both pilots and flight attendants onto unpaid leave at the end of their pregnancies with no alternatives. Employees with other medical conditions that render them temporarily unable to fly have been given the option of working in temporary ground positions, but this option is not made available for pregnant employees.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a pilot,” said Brandy Beck, a Frontier pilot who has flown with the airline since 2003. “My mother was a flight attendant in an era when she couldn’t have been a pilot for a major airline; my 8-year-old daughter already wants to be a pilot. I love this job. I am filing this lawsuit for the women who will come next — so they never feel like they are forced to choose between caring for themselves and their families and doing the work that they love.”
Frontier also refuses to provide accommodations relating to breastfeeding, and has even banned employees from pumping while on duty. As a result, the plaintiffs in these cases allege that they have lost income and other benefits from being forced onto unpaid leave. Several who have returned to work and attempted to continue breastfeeding without accommodations have suffered from pain, leaking and swollen breasts, infection, and other serious health issues, while others felt they had no choice but to give up breastfeeding altogether.
“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,” said Sara Neel, staff attorney at the ACLU of Colorado. “More than 40 years since workplace pregnancy discrimination was first outlawed, it is senseless, outdated, and frankly outrageous that we are still litigating such basic workplace protections for pregnant workers.”
“In 2019, all employers in every industry should have commonplace policies in place to accommodate such a predictable occurrence as employee pregnancy, and the airline industry is no exception,” said Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney, ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “Because Frontier does not accommodate these basic needs, employees who give birth will never have equal opportunities to succeed. It also means the company loses out on some of the best talent. It’s time for Frontier, and the airline industry as a whole, to catch up with the times.”
The two companion cases filed today are the first of their kind alleging systemic failure to accommodate pregnancy and breastfeeding in the airline industry. One action was filed as a class action by four flight attendants on behalf of themselves and a class of all other similarly situated flight attendants. The other was brought by four Frontier pilots. Both suits seek commonsense changes to Frontier’s policies, including the adoption of policies that would make ground positions available during pregnancy or breastfeeding, permit schedule modifications for breastfeeding employees, and provide employees reasonable breaks and designate private and sanitary locations to pump while on duty.
The ACLU, ACLU of Colorado, and Holwell Shuster & Goldberg LLP initially filed charges of discrimination with the EEOC on behalf of the four pilots in 2016, which were joined by similar charges on behalf of the flight attendants a year later. Although the EEOC actively investigated the charges for the past two years, Frontier has refused to cooperate fully with the investigation, prompting the filing of this lawsuit.
You can view a video of our plaintiffs, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lPLLwBXqMY&feature=youtu.be
The ACLU of Colorado is the state’s oldest civil rights organization, protecting and defending the civil rights of all Coloradans through litigation, education and advocacy.