New-Mom Pilots File Charges Against Airline That Kept Them From Pumping Breast Milk

airplanePumping breast milk at work is never easy, even at the most understanding of companies, but some jobs definitely make things harder on nursing moms -- and apparently Frontier Airlines is one of those places. Four female pilots are filing discrimination charges against the company on the grounds that its policies on pregnancy and nursing "fail to accommodate breastfeeding requirements" after the way they were treated (hint: horribly). 


Denver-based pilots Shannon Kiedrowski, Brandy Beck, Erin Zielinski, and Randi Freyer claim that after returning to work from maternity leave, they were not given designated areas to pump as promised; as a result, three of the women say they developed breast tissue infections, and Zielinski says she was forced to quit nursing early when her milk supply dried up. 

Additionally, the women say they were not given temporary work reassignments in the final stages of their pregnancies when they were medically unable to fly; instead, they had no choice but to take 8 to 10 weeks of unpaid leave, which has created "financial stress" for the pilots. (Undoubtedly!)

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Not only is all of this completely unfair, but it even goes against laws put in place to protect working moms.

"Colorado law clearly requires employers to provide accommodations for nursing," Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women's Rights Project, tells CafeMom. 

"In addition, state and federal laws against discrimination prohibit employers from treating women who are pregnant or breastfeeding worse than other employees and require that workplace policies account for pregnancy and breastfeeding." 

"Frontier’s policies are discriminatory and need to be changed," adds Sherwin.

"Frontier forces pregnant pilots to take 8 to 10 weeks of unpaid leave before their due date, makes women return to work when their babies are just 4 months old and many are still nursing, and makes no accommodations to enable pilots who are breastfeeding to pump breast milk."

I can't imagine how frustrating this experience must have been for these women. As if it's not hard enough for working moms! And I also can't imagine how scary it must have been for them when their temporary reassignments didn't come through -- for anyone to lose that much expected income right before the birth of a child is one of the most stressful scenarios possible. Frontier Airlines, perhaps unsurprisingly, denies it did anything wrong, having stated:

Our policies and practices comply with all federal and state laws as well as with the relevant provisions of the collective bargaining agreement between Frontier and its pilots group. 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.

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Okay, I'll admit that the duties of a commercial airline pilot are "unique," but I'm sure that these women wouldn't even be attempting to pump in-flight if they didn't know it was possible to do safely. Frontier's statement sounds more like a pathetic excuse than an explanation or apology (with hints of mom-shaming/misogyny for good measure). 

I truly hope that these women get the compensation they deserve -- and that other companies learn from Frontier's mistakes!


Image via Pieter van Marion/Flickr

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