Frontier Airlines settles lawsuit over pregnancy and nursing rights

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Frontier Airlines passenger jets at gates along Terminal A at Denver’s International Airport.

Updated at 12:20 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023.

UPDATE: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has retracted the information that this story was based on.

"We issued a press release in error on Friday," said Mary O'Neill, the regional attorney for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. "It was our fault. This matter is not resolved yet and we’re so sorry."

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Frontier Airlines will be one of the first airlines to allow pilots to pump breast milk in the cockpit.

A settlement was reached between five pilots, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Frontier Airlines resolving an EEOC complaint filed in May 2018 and a lawsuit filed in December 2019. Both the complaint and lawsuit alleged the Denver-based airline discriminated against pregnant and lactating employees.

“Today’s settlement accomplishes a vital goal: ensuring that expectant and new mothers are treated with the fairness and respect they deserve,” said Jayme Jonat, a partner at Holwell Shuster & Goldberg LLP who represented the pilots.

As part of the settlement, the airline agreed to update and clarify its policies related to accommodations for pregnancy and lactation. The settlement did not not admit liability.

The clarified policies must comply with the existing union agreement that permits pregnant pilots to fly with a medical certification. Pilots unable to fly due to pregnancy or lactation must be accommodated on the same terms as pilots who are unable to fly due to other medical conditions. The airline will keep on an internal website a list of airport lactation facilities that will be updated every 6 months. 

A pair of lawsuits were filed in 2019 by the ACLU against Frontier on behalf of pilot Randi Freyer and flight attendant Stacy Rewitzer alleging that the airline was violating federal protections for pregnant women and nursing mothers. The lawsuits said pregnant pilots were forced to take unpaid leave once they were too close to their due dates to fly safely and prohibited flight attendants from pumping during their shifts.

Jaclyn Peter, Frontier Airlines’ vice president of labor relations, said of the settlement that the airline was glad the two sides could come to a resolution. 

“We are proud to be at the forefront of accommodating the needs of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers in the airline industry,” Peter said. “Thanks in large part to advances in wearable lactation technology, the parties were able to reach an amicable resolution of this case that also maintains our commitment to standards.”