DENVER, Colo. - Four Frontier Airlines pilots have filed charges against the airline, claiming discrimination related to pregnancy, pumping and breast-feeding.
The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Colorado, and the law firm Holwell Shuster & Goldberg LLP filed the complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of the women.
"I love my job as a pilot at Frontier. I absolutely love my job. I've wanted to do this my whole life, but nobody should have to go through this," pilot Brandy Beck told The NOW's Anne McNamara. "It's 2016. Women should be treated equal in the work force and not be punished for having families."
The ACLU says the women suffered different health complications, including loss of milk supply and serious infection.
"The ultimate goal is to never have to actually pump in the aircraft, at all," said Shannon Kiedrowski, one of the pilots named in the lawsuit. "Realistically, it's like going to the bathroom."
The ACLU said Frontier forces pregnant pilots to take eight to 10 weeks of unpaid leave before their due date, allows a maximum of 120 days of maternity leave (all of it unpaid), and fails to make any accommodations to enable pilots who are breast-feeding to pump breast milk when they return to work.
"We're not asking for compensation. We are actually asking for unpaid leave," said Kiedrowski.
The ACLU is asking the EEOC to require Frontier to take several steps to make it easier for pregnant pilots and pilots who are breast-feeding, including that Frontier provide women the option of taking a temporary alternative assignment that would permit them to continue working during pregnancy or breast-feeding; designate places where a pilot who is breast-feeding can pump; and allow pilots who are breast-feeding to pump on the aircraft when necessary.
The ACLU and the law firm said it sent Frontier a letter asking for changes, before filing the complaint, but Frontier never responded.
"I have a daughter," said Beck. "I want it better for her and for every other woman out there. We need to be treated as equals."
Tuesday afternoon, Frontier Airlines issued this written statement:
"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 work places 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 identity [identify] and provide rooms and other secure locations for use by breast-feeding pilots during their duty travel."