Frontier Airlines settles pregnancy, breastfeeding bias claims

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A Frontier Airlines jet loads at the Denver International Airport April 11, 2008. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

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  • Frontier allegedly barred on-duty breast pumping, penalized absences
  • Settlement includes overhaul of policies

(Reuters) - Frontier Airlines Inc will update its policies related to accommodating pregnant and breastfeeding employees to settle a pair of lawsuits accusing the company of discrimination, according to a court filing on Wednesday.

Frontier and lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union representing groups of pilots and flight attendants who had sued the airline in Colorado federal court agreed to dismiss the 2019 lawsuits, which were consolidated last year.

The settlement does not include a monetary payout, but Frontier agreed to permit flight attendants to use wearable breast pumps during flights and provide lists of lactation facilities at airports to employees who have recently given birth.

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The airline will also provide the same accommodations to pregnant and lactating workers as it does to employees with other medical conditions, such as medical leave or temporary ground assignments.

The plaintiffs had accused Frontier of unlawfully penalizing pregnancy-related absences, refusing to provide accommodations to pregnant and breastfeeding workers, and prohibiting breast pumping while on duty. The airline denied wrongdoing.

Jacalyn Peter, Frontier's vice president of labor relations, said in a statement that the airline is at the forefront of the industry in terms of accommodating pregnant and breastfeeding workers.

"Thanks in part to advances in wearable lactation technology, the parties were able to reach an amicable resolution of this case that does not jeopardize public safety," Peter said.

Galen Sherwin of the ACLU in a statement said the settlement sends a message to the airline industry and employers around the country that providing basic accommodations for breastfeeding workers "is both smart and doable."

The case is Freyer v. Frontier Airlines Inc, U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, No. 19-cv-03468.

For the plaintiffs: Jayme Jonat of Holwell Shuster & Goldberg; Sara Neel and Galen Sherwin of the American Civil Liberties Union

For Frontier: Erin Webber of Littler Mendelson

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Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at daniel.wiessner@thomsonreuters.com.