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Frontier Airlines Lawsuit Settlement for Pregnant Nursing Employees

Based in Denver Border airlines reached a settlement over complaints about its policies regarding pregnant or nursing employees – a controversy described in our May 2016 article, “Frontier Told Flight Attendant to Wait Ten Hours to Pump Breast Milk.”

Frontier pilots Brandy Beck, Shannon Kiedrowski, Randi Freyer and Erin Zielinksi first raised their concerns with the feds. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before filing a complaint against the carrier in 2019, at the same time, a separate complaint was filed on behalf of the flight attendants. the Colorado ACLUthe National ACLUNew York-based law firm Holwell Shuster & Goldberg LLPand towards justicea nonprofit law firm that focuses on economic justice, all worked on the pilots’ case in the years that followed.

The ACLU of Colorado does not comment on the settlement beyond a statement noting that “Frontier Airlines has agreed to several policy changes that will better meet the needs of pregnant and nursing flight attendants.” but omitting any mention of payments to plaintiffs or who will cover attorneys’ fees.

As for Frontier, which does not admit any liability related to the settlement, Jacalyn Peter, its vice-president of labor relations, said: “We are proud to be at the forefront of meeting the needs of pregnant and breastfeeding women. in the airline industry. . Thanks in part to advances in wearable breastfeeding technology, the parties have been able to reach an amicable resolution to this matter that does not compromise public safety.”

Sara Neel, senior counsel for the ACLU of Colorado, was more expansive in a December 2019 interview. “This is obviously an important case to try to bring equality to an industry that is, certainly for pilots, very male dominated,” she said. “We want to make room for women in this field, and we want to help flight attendants who want to breastfeed their children – who want to find a way to keep their jobs and exercise that option as a mother.”

The ACLU produced a video about the then-pending case, with Beck front and center.
The first lawsuit challenged a number of requirements placed on pilots. “They go on unpaid leave at 32 weeks pregnant, regardless of their individual circumstances,” Neel pointed out in the 2019 interview. when they need it most. We therefore affirm that Frontier treats pregnant workers differently than other workers temporarily unable to fly. We ask Frontier to put a policy in place for temporary ground assignments, so that they don’t have to stop earning a paycheck.” She also noted that “they don’t get any paid parental leave.”

As for flight attendants, represented in the second lawsuit by plaintiffs Melissa Hodgkins, Stacy Rewitzer, Renee Schwartzkopf and Heather Crowe, “they are required to return to work very soon after giving birth, and if they choose to breastfeed their children, they face serious difficulties in figuring out how to pump [breast milk] throughout their working day,” Neel said. “Frontier doesn’t allow pilots or flight attendants to pump the plane, and there isn’t enough runtime to pump while they’re on the ground. This caused several medical problems for our complainants. The result of not pumping can be very painful and can lead to other medical conditions, as well as reduced milk supply and an inability to continue breastfeeding.”

Neel also noted that “some of our clients decided to give up breastfeeding when they returned to work because they knew how difficult it would be, even if they wanted to breastfeed their children.”

Here is a summary of the policies Frontier has agreed to update and clarify as part of the settlement:

• Maintain recent changes to its policies, including those allowing flight attendants to express milk safely during the flight using portable breast pumps.

• To clarify that under Frontier’s Reliability Policy, which governs attendance, [Family and Medical Leave Act]- justified absences related to pregnancy are excused and not subject to disciplinary sanctions.

• Provide a regularly updated list of lactation facilities at Frontier bases to flight attendants giving birth (and instructions on where to find information regarding lactation facilities at all other airports served by Frontier) and provide a system to respond to flight attendant feedback regarding the suitability of breastfeeding facilities at base locations.

• Clarify Frontier’s policy that it accommodates flight attendants unable to fly due to pregnancy or breastfeeding on the same terms as it accommodates flight attendants with other medical conditions. rendering them unable to fly (including granting them medical leave or temporary ground assignments, if such assignments are offered by Frontier).

In a statement on the settlement, Melissa Hodgkins said, “I am pleased that flight attendants who wish to breastfeed have the time and space to express their breast milk in a healthy and hygienic way. Future flight attendants air won’t have to worry about how they’ll adjust to pumping between flights or wondering where they can safely pump.I gave up breastfeeding to support my family, and no one shouldn’t have to make that choice again.

Click to read Randi Freyer, et al., v. Frontier Airlines; Melissa Hodgkins, et al., v. Frontier Airlines; and Brandy Beck’s EEOC Record.

This post has been updated to include a comment from Frontier Airlines.