OAKLAND, Calif (KGO) -- Several women at AC Transit say the East Bay transportation agency is disregarding the law when it comes to their needs as pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
"They make you feel that you're an inconvenience and a burden to them for being pregnant, for trying to be a working pregnant mother," said Nikki McNaulty.
McNaulty is part of a new class action lawsuit against the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District, alleging pregnancy discrimination and failure to accommodate lactation needs. After her first pregnancy, McNaulty returned to work in 2016 and worked out of the AC Transit office in East Oakland, where she says she was told to use a conference room and an old closet to pump breast milk.
"It was dirty and filthy... that had no privacy that led to where operators would go smoke cigarettes."
With her second pregnancy in 2017, McNaulty says she was denied a voucher to buy a larger uniform. An appropriate lactation room was provided at a different district office, but she says she was not given a schedule that allowed her enough time to pump breast milk until her baby turned one. So in 2018, McNaulty felt forced to leave her job as a bus driver to take a lesser paying desk job at AC Transit, so she could pump at work.
"This is predominantly a workforce that used to be for men. In 2019, you have now a workforce that is women. You have childbearing age women," said McNaulty.
"We have these laws on the books, but they're not being necessarily enforced, employers aren't taking them seriously," said Kevin Love Hubbard, a civil rights attorney in Oakland.
Hubbard is with Medina Orthwein LLP, the law firm representing McNaulty and another AC Transit mother, Jada Edward, who is also named in the lawsuit.
"What both Nikki and Jada want is for AC Transit to change the way it treats people going forward."
Hubbard says they will seek monetary damages and expects that more AC Transit employees will join the lawsuit.
AC Transit refused ABC7's request for an interview Tuesday but provided a statement, which says in part "a lawsuit is an assembly of one party's allegations and by no means a confirmation of facts. As such, we ask the public to withhold any judgment as we work to uncover the circumstances giving rise to this issue."
Full Statement from AC Transit:
"We again stress to our employees and riders, that AC Transit has a robust policy of addressing complaints - including lawsuits - thoroughly and expeditiously. Our General Counsel's office will appropriately respond to the pleadings of any filed and served lawsuit.
In the interim, we stress that a lawsuit is an assembly of one party's allegations and by no means a confirmation of facts. As such, we ask the public to withhold any judgment as we work to uncover the circumstances giving rise to this issue.
Should AC Transit have any additional updates; I will contact you directly."
Working mothers sue AC Transit for pregnancy discrimination, failure to accommodate breast pumping needs