Update: Stacy Rewitzer and Jo Roby, a pair of flight attendants for Frontier Airlines, are at the center of a federal complaint that accuses the carrier of discriminating against them and their colleagues by not providing adequate accommodations related to pregnancy and breastfeeding. The charges arrive one year after the filing of a similar lawsuit on behalf of four Frontier pilots.
Our previous coverage of the pilot lawsuit is on view below.
In "statement of harm" documents submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by the ACLU of Colorado and the law firm Holwell Shuster & Goldberg LLP, which previously collaborated on the pilots' suit, Rewitzer and Roby say that they were forced to take unpaid leave in order to have their babies. And upon their return, the situation didn't improve much, in part because they maintain that Frontier forbade them from pumping breast milk while on duty — an edict that could be downright painful, given that their shifts on back-to-back flights often lasted ten hours or more.
Rewitzer's pregnancy nearly cost her her job, she allows. Her statement says that as a result of time she missed while pregnant because of illness, she was almost "terminated due to attendance occurrences."
She was also denied a request for unpaid personal leave for another pregnancy-related matter because it happened to coincide with Super Bowl weekend, when Frontier expected to be very busy. And this past February, after giving birth, Rewitzer was informed via e-mail that Frontier "cannot offer any accommodations to nursing flight attendants" and that "there is "no other option" than for her to "return to work full duty without any restrictions, including nursing accommodations."
The complaints ask that the EEOC order Frontier to do the following:
• Provide clean and convenient accommodations for pumping while on duty, including on board during flight when necessary, during training, and at airports
• Allow temporary alternative ground assignments
• Provide relief from the current strict attendance policy that penalizes flight attendants who miss work due to pregnancy
• Offer meaningful parental leave for new parents
Original post, 7:52 a.m. May 11, 2016: Frontier Airlines has faced plenty of challenges lately.
The latest? Four Frontier pilots, in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union, have filed Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints against the airline.
They claim that, in the ACLU's words, "the company’s policies discriminate against women by failing to provide accommodations related to pregnancy and breastfeeding."
The pilots in question are Shannon Kiedrowski, a Frontier employee since 2002, Brandy Beck, who came aboard in 2003, and Erin Zielinski and Randi Freyer, both of whom were hired in 2013.
According to the four complaints, Frontier regs require pilots to take unpaid leave after their 32nd week of pregnancy, at which point they are told they can no longer fly.
Moreover, maternity leave maxes out at 120 (unpaid) days and "fails to make any accommodations to enable pilots who are breastfeeding to pump breast milk when they return to work," the ACLU maintains.
Granted, Frontier has created a designated "lactation room" at Denver International Airport that breastfeeding pilots can use. However, the complainants say it's so far from the departure and arrival gates that pilots are often unable to use it without the possibility of missing their next flight.
In order to illustrate the impact of these policies in practical terms, Kiedrowski has penned a blog that offers readers a window onto her daily breastfeeding struggles prior to the designation of a lactation room at DIA.
"This is how my life of pumping at work typically looked," she writes. "I would arrive at the airport at least a half hour earlier than I normally would in order to pump before the flight. Because there were no lactation rooms at the airport at the time, I would wait for the family restroom to become available. Once the pumping was done, I’d report for duty. Upon arrival at the destination airport, I’d go to the aircraft lavatory and pump again, while cleaners, flight attendants, and possibly the other pilot bang on the door because I am in there for fifteen minutes, sometimes longer.
"Pilots sometimes fly two-, three-, four-, or even five-day trips," she points out. "I was lucky to have enough seniority that I was usually able to arrange my schedule so I could be home to nurse my baby each night. But on those occasions when I did have to do a two- or three-day trip, I would have to request a refrigerator in my hotel room, pump while on the layover, figure out a way to transport all the breast milk I had pumped, and hope that it did not spoil before I got back home.
"Throughout this process, I was left to figure it out on my own. Rather than support me, company management questioned my parenting choices as well as my commitment to my career. They even questioned why I didn’t switch to formula.
"I battled for months to get Frontier’s management to develop a policy to help future new moms, meeting with my union reps and presenting research on other airlines’ practices," Kiedrowski continues. "But my efforts went nowhere — I think they hoped this would never come up again. Sure enough, in the three years since my child was born, five other new mothers have faced the same difficulties. Some developed mastitis, a painful infection. Others lost their milk supply and could not continue breastfeeding. They, too, appealed to management for help, but like me, they were left to figure it out on their own because Frontier still has no official policy in place to support nursing moms. For a long time, it wasn’t even clear whether we’d be disciplined if we pumped on the aircraft."
The American Civil Liberties Union, which assembled the complaints in conjunction with the ACLU of Colorado and the law firm Holwell Shuster & Goldberg LLP, states that prior to its filing, reps "sent a letter to Frontier requesting that Frontier implement policy changes to adequately accommodate pregnant and breastfeeding pilots, but Frontier never responded."
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Thus far, Frontier hasn't commented publicly about the filings.