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Pregnant bus operators demand accommodations from MTA


Pregnant bus operators suing New York City Transit for allegedly failing to provide them with reasonable accommodations urged the authority to address the issue.

During a MTA board meeting Tuesday, Theresa Rodriguez, one of six employees who filed the lawsuit, said she has been struggling to make ends meet since she has been out of work for two-and-a-half months without pay.

Rodriguez, a bus operator since March 2023 who is eight-and-a-half months pregnant, has a high-risk pregnancy and was recommended by her doctor not to do any heavy lifting, pushing, pulling or bouncing, and to avoid over-exerting herself, according to the suit.

“We move the city, and when we come back from this, we’re going to continue to do that. But I would like to feel appreciated and acknowledged,” she told MTA board members. “Please, find something to accommodate pregnant women, not just for me, but for my coworkers from now on and in the future.”

According to the suit, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court last month, NYCT “forces pregnant bus operators to choose between protecting a healthy pregnancy and earning a paycheck.”

Rodriguez, who works out of the Fresh Pond Road Depot in Ridgewood, Queens, faced severe discomfort and pain while climbing on the bus because in December she had a cervical stitch, a surgery performed to avoid a preterm birth. She also had limited bathroom access because the route she drove was in a residential neighborhood, the suit states. 

She was assigned to work in the depot’s break room assisting with paperwork starting Feb. 9 while her application for an accommodation was pending. The MTA’s Medical Assessment Center then temporarily restricted her to light duty on Feb. 23, the suit says. Rodriguez’s request for an accommodation was approved on March 15, but she was instructed to go home on March 18, her next workday, because the 10 days of accommodations that she’d been granted had been retroactively applied.

Rodriguez said that she’s used up her FMLA leave time, which is unpaid.

“I’m asking for Transit to please fix what’s going on. It’s not just me, it’s also my other female co-workers who are currently pregnant, we are all dealing with the same situation,” the bus operator said. “I’m currently in the worst [position] because I’m new to Transit so I don’t have any days to put in.”

'There's jobs for us'

Latoya Christian, a bus operator for more than two years, asked her union rep in January if she could change her hours or somehow otherwise be accommodated since her shift ended at 2 a.m. But she was told that the MTA did not consider pregnancy accommodation requests until an employee is six months pregnant, the suit claimed.

By February, Christian, assigned to the Flatbush Depot in Brooklyn, began experiencing vertigo and nausea while driving, frequently vomiting during her route, which disrupted service. Her doctors diagnosed her with gestational diabetes and recommended that she be restricted from driving a bus.

Her request for reasonable accommodation was approved, but for just two weeks. Christian, who is due in July, used all of her accumulated sick time and a week of vacation time as well as unpaid FMLA leave. She has been out of work without pay since March and recently received a letter of termination.

“Having a child is not a disability, there’s jobs out there for us to do. There’s 800 people, 900 people in a depot, and there’s no jobs for bus operators?” she said during the meeting. “I love my job, we provide a service — but this is a disservice. It’s disgusting.”

The MTA’s acting general counsel, Paige Graves, declined to comment on the suit, but noted that the MTA has expanded paid leave for birth mothers from two weeks to 12.

“This issue of accommodation was assigned to a joint labor and management task force to address these issues and discuss how things can be improved,” Graves said during the hearing. “However, it went into litigation … and because it’s now in litigation, my comments are now going to be limited.”

Although the MTA created four announcer positions for pregnant subway conductors and operators who need restricted duty in 2020, the authority hasn’t established a similar position for bus employees. 

Other workers who filed the suit said that they requested to be moved to a depot closer to where they live or given shorter routes, but their requests were denied. The suit alleged that the NYCT has violated city and state human rights laws because the bus operators were wrongly denied reasonable accommodations and forced to take unpaid leave.

“Regardless of the pregnant employee’s request or circumstances, Respondent/Defendant NYCTA has taken a hardline position that pregnant bus operators get 10 days of light duty or they get no accommodation at all,” the suit states. “NYCTA’s policy is, in effect, that pregnant bus operators are accommodated with an unpaid leave of absence — which is supposed to be ‘a last resort, when no other accommodation can be made.’ ”

The workers are asking a judge to order the NYCT to reinstate their pay and identify reasonable accommodations for them. They are also seeking back pay and damages for pain and suffering.

Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents more than 40,000 subway and bus workers, is backing the suit, stating that 20 percent of the workers in the division that includes bus operators are women of childbearing age.

“The MTA's negligence in providing reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers is an egregious failure,” said Richard Davis, TWU Local 100’s president. “It's high time they acknowledge their duty to ensure the safety and well-being of all employees, especially during pregnancy. Anything less is a shameful betrayal of trust and an affront to basic human rights.”


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