Female pilots take airline to court over breastfeeding arrangements

The working mothers argue they do not have areas on the plane or at the airport to pump breast milk...

Female pilots take airline to court over breastfeeding arrangements

Picture by: David Zalubowski / AP/Press Association Images

Four Denver-based female pilots have filed discrimination charges against their employer Frontier Airlines, claiming that its pregnancy and nursing policies failed to accommodate breastfeeding requirements.

In the complaints filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Tuesday, the pilots state that there were no designated locations to express milk at the airport or on the aircraft.

They also claim that they were forced to take eight to 10 weeks of unpaid leave when they were unable to fly in the final stages of their pregnancies.

Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women's Rights Project, said:

"There's a very clear law that requires employers to provide breaks and non-bathroom locations for employees to express breast milk. None of these were available to the pilots".

Frontier has countered that "while there are many workplaces that might allow for nursing mothers to express breast milk during a break from work activities, the duties of a commercial airline pilot present unique circumstances.

"We have made good-faith efforts to identify and provide rooms and other secure locations for use by breastfeeding pilots during their duty travel".

Whiile Frontier has a designated breast-milk pumping room at Denver International Airport, the pilots said it was not always convenient to their gates and that the airport was an exception.

Shannon Kiedrowski told the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission she had received a written reprimand when she pumped in an airplane restroom and was told that leaving the flight deck raised safety issues.

The ACLU says delays in pumping had resulted in pain and discomfort, with three of the women saying they developed breast tissue infections because they could not pump on a regular schedule.

Erin Zielinski said she had planned to breastfeed her child for a year but quit nursing early when her milk supply dried up.

Zielinski said:

"I love my job as a pilot so much, except for this issue. We don't want future moms to have to go through this. We want a better policy for everyone going forward.

"There are more and more female pilots being hired, including at Frontier. We don't want anyone to have to choose between flying and breastfeeding".