Two Frontier Airlines flight attendants are suing their employer for forbidding them to pump breast milk while working on flights.
Stacy Rewitzer of Denver and Jo Roby of Boise, Idaho claim they were forced to either stop breastfeeding or take unpaid leave. Like many companies in the USA, Frontier does not offer paid parental leave.
Under the 1993 Family Medical Leave Act, the FAs cannot be fired for taking time off related to their pregnancy or child birth, but this leave is unpaid. Workers wishing to take paid time off must use sick or vacation days. That’s problematic because Frontier Airlines has a “dependability policy” that penalizes employees for time off, putting them in greater danger of losing their job.
As a result of Frontier’s actions, I have had to choose between performing my job and earning a living on the one hand, and continuing to breastfeed my child on the other.
-Flight Attendant Jo Roby
Frontier bristles at the lawsuit, stating FAs agreed to this policy in union-backed contract negotiations and its policy comports to state and federal law. Frontier also asserts that it does make reasonable accommodations available to its FAs:
We have made good-faith efforts to identity and provide rooms and other secure locations for use by breast-feeding flight attendants during their duty travel.
The lawsuit acknowledged that Frontier did attempt to find airport locations to breast pump, but with short turn times and spread out gates there was rarely time: it was an illusory benefit.
Therefore, the lawsuit demands Frontier allow FAs to breast pump in the air during flight or offer an interim-based ground job so leave does not become necessary in order to breast feed.
I am well aware that pumping is a full-time job: my wife went through it. Therefore I understand the concern behind this lawsuit that mothers truly do not have a viable choice. At the same time, I’m not sure adopting European-style paid paternity leave is even worth discussing in this political era, despite campaign promises.
(top image: Bill Larkins / Wikimedia Commons)