Eight female pilots and flight attendants are suing Frontier Airlines, claiming the budget carrier discriminates against pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding.
Take Randi Freyer. She’s a Frontier Airlines pilot and a mother of two. Two months before the due date of her first child, Frontier Airlines unilaterally grounded her. Freyer’s doctor had cleared her to continue to fly, but Frontier cited its standard policy. However, rather than reassigning her a position on the ground, as had been extended to other employees, Freyer was placed on unpaid leave.
Freyer underscored the stress of being placed on involuntary, unpaid leave right before a baby was due (with all the expenses that child brings…).
When Freyer returned from her unpaid leave, she was still nursing and allegedly denied schedule modifications in order to find time to pump. This led her to develop mastitis, an infection causing painful, burning sensations in her breasts.
She was also prohibited from pumping in the flight deck or in the lavatory during the flight. Instead, she had to squeeze into the lavatory before or after the flight in order to take care of her pumping. This caused further pain and leakage.
Now stop for a moment. We have one side of the story, told in an op-ed column by Galen Sherwin, an attorney for the A.C.L.U. Women’s Rights Project. Her motive is clear: build a convincing case for her clients.
Frontier denies that it denies accommodation to pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. On the contrary, it stated:
“Frontier Airlines has strong policies in place in support of pregnant and lactating mothers” and “offers a number of accommodations for pregnant and lactating pilots and flight attendants within the bounds of protecting public safety.”
There are also strict attendance policies at play, which really beg the question: should a woman have to give up breastfeeding in order to hold keep her job? That’s exactly what one of the flight attendants party to this lawsuit says she was forced to do.
Whatever the precise solution is to this problem, I think most can agree that this is a problem. I saw how time-consuming and sometimes stressful breast pumping could be for my wife. Women should not be stigmatized for caring for their children. No one should be forced to squeeze into a grimy airline lavatory to lactate. Child bearing should be encouraged, not treated as a disability. I trust this lawsuit will lead to policy changes at Frontier and other airlines that will provide greater accommodation and therefore greater dignity to women who are pregnant or recently gave birth.