OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Four women who are employees at AC Transit have filed a class-action lawsuit against the transit agency, claiming supervisors discriminated against them while they were pregnant and later when they were lactating.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit — Nikki McNaulty, Jada Edward, Javonne Knight and Christy Pullum — claim AC Transit repeatedly violated the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Leave Law.READ MORE: Demonstrators Call on San Francisco to Keep Great Highway Closed to Cars
Edward said she experienced such severe discrimination that she now questions whether she would expand her family.
“Now, the way I feel, I don’t want anymore children,” she said. “It was just way too much.”
Edward, an AC Transit bus driver, said in June 2017 she was pregnant and driving an old bus with an exhaust pipe close to the driver’s seat. She said she started feeling symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
When she complained, she said supervisors did not respond quickly enough. Weeks later, she became drowsy while driving and rear-ended a car in front of her. She went on leave until her daughter was born.
When she returned, Edward said initially, AC Transit accommodated her need to work only a few hours at a time before stopping to use a breast pump. But after a few months, Edward said her schedule changed and she was forced to drive while painfully engorged.
According to the lawsuit, she “was forced to stop in a public restroom, manually pump just enough to ease the pain, and then dump the milk…By taking these bathroom breaks, Ms. Edwards ran the risk of discipline from AC Transit for extended bathroom breaks.”READ MORE: Marin County Steps Up Effort to Vaccinate Youth
McNaulty, also an AC Transit driver, said she experienced similar discrimination while pregnant. According to the lawsuit, she suffered symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning “including vomiting, weakness, and headache.”
When she asked to either drive a newer bus or work a desk job, her bosses refused.
“I was told we do not accommodate pregnant women and was put on an unpaid leave of absence,” McNaulty said. “No source of income, no way to pay my rent, no way to provide food for my child.”
When McNaulty got back from maternity leave, she said she had to lactate in a cramped, dirty conference room that offered little privacy. She said her hours and pay were also cut at one point, and the stress made it impossible to breastfed.
“AC Transit caused me to dry out from stress,” she said.
In a statement, AC Transit spokesman Robert Lyles said: “AC Transit complies with pregnancy and accommodation laws,” and added, “We also individually work with our new mothers to integrate their lactation needs into daily work schedules.”
But McNaulty and Edward said it felt like the transit agency was working against them.MORE NEWS: Container Ship That Caught Fire Off Monterey Coast Being Towed to Bay Area
“It’s a punishment,” said Edward. “I feel like I’m being punished to have a kid.”