Breastfeeding Frontier Pilots: Airline Discriminates Against Us

Frontier pilot Erin Zielinski and her baby in a photo from her Facebook page. Additional images and more below.
Frontier pilot Erin Zielinski and her baby in a photo from her Facebook page. Additional images and more below.
Facebook

Frontier Airlines has faced plenty of challenges lately.

The carrier has fought negative PR due to poor on-time performance rankings, grousing about hidden fees and the regular appearance of online customer horror stories.

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."

A Facebook photo of Brandy Beck.
A Facebook photo of Brandy Beck.
Facebook

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, shared below, 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.

Shannon Kiedrowski and her infant son.
Shannon Kiedrowski and her infant son.

"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.

Randi Freyer and her child in a Facebook photo.
Randi Freyer and her child in a Facebook photo.
Facebook

"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."

Upcoming Events

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."

Thus far, Frontier hasn't commented publicly about the filings.

Look below to see the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints of the four pilots. For more details about the case, click here.


Upcoming Events


Sponsor Content

Newsletters

All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories
    Send:

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >