The MTA violated city and state laws by failing to accommodate a pregnant bus operator, a new lawsuit alleges.
The suit, brought by the transit workers union TWU Local 100 on Wednesday, claims bus operator Latoya McFarlane had to leave work without pay when she was several months pregnant because the MTA failed to provide appropriate work that wouldn’t risk harming her or her pregnancy.
“The MTA is forcing pregnant women to make a terrible choice. Do jobs that put your unborn child’s health in jeopardy or have your pay docked," said Local 100 president Tony Utano in a statement. “It’s outrageous and unnecessary. They can give these women temporary desk jobs doing clerical work … these women are available and willing to work but need the authority to be reasonable and caring for once.”
McFarlane’s obstetrician recommended she stop driving a bus on May 3, when she was 26 weeks pregnant, due to back pain and the need for better access to a restroom. McFarlane, who also has asthma, completed an accommodation request form but the MTA, interacting solely through McFarlane’s union, offered a handful of jobs that McFarlane couldn’t accept because they were either too physically demanding or potentially subjected her to harsh chemicals, according to the lawsuit.
McFarlane was only paid for one day of work following May 3 and had to use up all her vacation and personal days as well as sick leave to make ends meet.
The lawsuit was filed as the union continues turbulent contract negotiations with the MTA. It also came during the arraignment of Tony Burnett, a defendant accused of menacing a different bus operator with a loaded gun last month. MTA officials, including NYC Transit president Andy Byford, made a show of attending the arraignment as a sign of solidarity.
“It’s definitely appreciated. It gives the impression that everyone wants to seek the same thing: justice,” said Donald Yates, a bus operator and Local 100 division chairman, speaking of the appearances.
The MTA declined to comment on the lawsuit.
“NYC Transit takes the health and welfare of all employees very seriously,” said MTA spokesman Tim Minton. “Beyond that, it’s our policy not to comment on pending litigation.”