Frontier Airlines settles claim it discriminated against pregnant and lactating employees

Dive Brief:

  • Frontier Airlines agreed to a settlement Tuesday with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and five pilots over allegations the airline forced pregnant and lactating pilots to take unpaid leave, didn’t offer reasonable accommodations and kept them from pumping at work, EEOC announced. 
  • Under the settlement, Frontier will adopt new pregnancy and lactation policies that will allow pilots to pump in the cockpit during safe periods of flights, permit, as outlined in a union agreement, pregnant pilots to fly with a medical certification and establish and update a list of lactation facilities available in airports, according to the news release. 
  • “This settlement should serve as a strong message to employers — especially airline employers — that reasonable accommodations such as those agreed to by Frontier Airlines are good for workers, good for families, good for business and required by the law. We’re hopeful this will inspire more change and stronger protections for workers across the airline industry,” Aditi Fruitwala, a staff attorney for the ACLU’s Center for Liberty who represented the pilots, said in a statement.

Dive Insight:

Several laws prohibit pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans sex discrimination, which includes pregnancy discrimination. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to workers for pregnancy, childbirth and related conditions. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against candidates or employees with a disability, including disabilities tied to pregnancy. 

There have been a number of lawsuits filed against companies alleging they failed to accommodate pregnant and lactating workers. 

In January 2022, Labcorp revised its lactation policy after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor found that the company had failed to provide a private space for pumping, leaving one employee to be interrupted twice by co-workers.

In September, two former Dollar General workers filed a collective-action lawsuit against the retailer for allegedly refusing to give them breaks or private places to pump milk at work, instead forcing them to use “unsanitary” stockrooms or restrooms. 

And recently, another airline, Sun Country Airlines, came under fire when a breastfeeding employee alleged it forced her to pump in the baggage storage office — a space with windows that was accessible by staff.