Pre and Post Pregnancy Discrimination by Frontier Airlines Exemplifies Industry’s Propensity for Employment Discrimination Lawsuits

Earlier in May, four female commercial airline pilots for Frontier Airline filed discrimination complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Their main allegation is that the airline discriminates against them and other female pilots by not providing “reasonable accommodation” for their pregnancy and breast-feeding post-delivery.  Once the EEOC grants them right to sue, the next step is bringing the lawsuits in court.

According to the Complaint, Frontier airlines discriminates against female pilots in several ways.  First, it only offers 120 days of unpaid leave while requiring mandatory leave for eight weeks before the delivery date.  Next, the airline does not accommodate new mothers since it does not give them the required opportunity and location to pump breast milk.  Frontier responded that allowing a pilot to leave the cockpit during flight is a safety concern and that it organized rooms and staff in airports for assisting with breast pumping. However, the plaintiffs believe this is not enough and does not meet federal and state laws.  On the federal level, the Affordable Care Act of 2010 mandates that employers provide reasonable break time and space (other than a bathroom) for women to pump breast milk at work.  States like California have been on the forefront granting even more rights.  In addition, Pregnancy Discrimination Act also forbids employers from treating women affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions any differently than other employees not so affected.

Providing “reasonable accommodation” takes place when employers alter the way that the work may be performed, through special equipment or scheduling, to allow disabled individuals to complete their jobs.  The only way that employers would not be required to provide this accommodation is if it would result in “undue hardship” to the employer.  Undue hardship comes in the form of extremely problematic or costly to the employer.  Either way, the disabled employee must complete the main functions of her job when she is provided with a reasonable accommodation.

In 2014, California legislatures passed Government Code 50479 which required most public airports to provide a room (other than a restroom with a chair and electrical outlet) to pump breast milk in private.  In 2015, California expanded this requirement to schools operated by school districts and charter schools to provide “reasonable accommodation” to lactating pupils on school campus to express/pump breast milk, breastfeed an infant or address other related needs. (Cal. Education Code § 222).  See these other blogs for samples of Pregnancy Disability Leave.

With these types of cases splashed all over news sites, there does not seem to be an end in sight for this area of litigation.  Even Donald Trump made the news in this area when he was furious at an attorney who, during a deposition, asked for a break to pump breast milk.  Trump’s response was that it was disgusting and walked out.

If you believe that you, or other employees, suffered an employment law matter related to pregnancy disability leave, gender discrimination or related retaliation in the workplace, prompt action to preserve your rights is crucial since the statute of limitation is a short one year.  Contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Stephen Danz & Associates for a free no obligation consultation to discuss your circumstances and legal options.