The alleged failure of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to comply with city and state laws that direct employers to accommodate pregnant employees with alternative work arrangements continues to prompt legal actions.
On Sept. 3 Transport Workers Union Local 100 filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of a 38-year-old female Bus Operator alleging that her employer violated those laws when it failed “to make a reasonable accommodation” for her pregnancy.
Roughly 30 percent of the union’s membership is female.
‘Take Health Seriously’
“New York City Transit takes the health and welfare of all employees very seriously,” MTA Communications Director Tim Minton said in a statement. “Beyond that, it’s our policy not to comment on pending litigation.”
According to the complaint, Bus Operator Latoya MacFarlane notified management at the Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority May 3 that she was 26 weeks pregnant and that her obstetrician wanted her to stop driving a bus.
She was suffering from lower back pain, leg swelling and pelvic pressure. She also needed to work near a restroom. The Bus Operator, who was hired in 2009, filled out an accommodation request asking for an assignment where she would not have to sit for extended periods and would have access to a restroom.
Ms. MacFarlane also had an asthma condition that pre-dated her pregnancy but had no previous impact on her job performance.
Never Heard Back
In the months after her request for an accommodation, no one from management spoke to her about the request. What she got instead was a series of assignments that failed to address the issues she had detailed, culminating in her being told there was no work for her.
Initially, she spent 10 days on light-duty work doing “desks and dishes,” which required she use heavy-duty cleaning solvents, which proved problematic because of her asthma.
After that, she was directed to check the bus fleet’s wheel-chair lifts, which required bending and possibly kneeling, something that in her condition she could not do.
Management then opted to have her move buses around different depots in the Bronx as needed. That job looked like it might work until she was required to drive buses through a mobile wash that used harsh chemicals.
She was ordered to report to the crew room June 3 and was assigned clerical work in the General Superintendent’s office, but was telephoned by a manager after work and told that there would be no more work for her.
Forced to Exhaust Leave
“Plaintiff was only paid for one day of work after May 3 and in order to get paid, had to exhaust her vacation, leave, personal days and sick leave,” according to the Local 100 court filing.
“When I looked at this, what shocked me was the lack of personal interaction by management, which is a fundamental element of reaching an accommodation with any employee with a disability,” said Arthur Schwartz, her attorney.
Ms. MacFarlane gave birth in August to her daughter Journey.
“My goal with this is for New York City Transit to implement some kind of system for pregnant employees,” she said in a phone interview. “It wasn’t all that long ago that they finally provided two weeks' maternity leave, so they really don’t have anything in place.”
She continued, “This job is predominantly male, and as a woman you have to be able to take a stand.”
She is married to a Bus Operator she met on the job. They also have a three-year-old son.
Not the First Case
Ms. MacFarlane’s legal action follows a similar claim brought against the MTA by Crystal Young, a subway Conductor. Ms. Young had been advised by two physicians that it was not safe for her to continue to work without some accommodation, according to the Daily News.
Rather than comply with city and state laws that were updated in 2013 and 2016 to require employers to provide some reasonable accommodation for pregnant workers, the MTA sent Ms. Young home without pay, the paper reported.
Ultimately, the MTA relented and provided the pregnant subway Conductor an alternative job that met her medical requirements.
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