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Employee alleges airline forced her to pump in baggage claim office

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Dive Brief:

  • An airport customer service agent claimed her former employer, Minneapolis-based Sun Country Airlines, engaged in discrimination and retaliation when it allegedly failed to provide her with an appropriate place to express breast milk, according to a lawsuit filed in a Minnesota court Nov. 13.
  • The plaintiff alleged that Sun Country Airlines told her to use the baggage storage office to pump, an area that was not private, featured windows and was accessible by staff. “Anyone standing outside either the main room or the backroom can see inside,” the suit noted, adding that one co-worker “leered” at her while she was pumping. The room also did not provide the plaintiff a place to store her milk, the suit said.
  • Additionally, co-workers allegedly harassed the plaintiff. When she spoke up, per the complaint filed by advocacy group Gender Justice, the plaintiff felt “gaslighted” and was cast in an unreasonably “aggressive” light.

Dive Insight:

The labor law landscape saw a groundswell of national, at-work protections for nursing people in recent months. The Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act went into effect in late December 2022. Already, PUMP Act violations have hit the national stage. 

Similar to the Sun Country Airlines lawsuit, three U.S. Postal Service workers brought a suit against their employer for forcing them to pump in a semi-public place at work. The July 2023 collective-action alleged USPS told a nursing employee to pump in the break room, where colleagues would be present. Postal service management forced other workers to pump in cramped mail trucks, the suit alleged.

Likewise, Dollar General workers sued in September, alleging their employer forced them to pump in “unsanitary” restrooms and stockrooms. 

Additionally, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which took effect in June, also provides protections for nursing employees. The act requires employers provide reasonable accommodations regarding a worker’s known limitations related to “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.”

“No one should be punished or retaliated against at work for pumping milk to keep their newborn fed,” the plaintiff in the Sun Country Airlines case said in a press release.

“The way I was treated as a new mother at work was wrong, and I want to make sure it never happens to anyone else again,” she added.

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