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Pregnant Bus Drivers Say They’re Not Getting Their Due Accommodations

Women who work for the MTA’s surface transit division say they aren’t being given the same option of light-duty jobs as they get closer to their delivery dates.

by Jose Martinez April 17, 2024, 10:15 p.m.

Even if she can’t be behind the wheel of an MTA bus in Brooklyn, Latoya Christian wants to be at work right now while counting down to the birth of her son in July.

But the 39-year-old has been sidelined since March and is instead burning through her time off — because of what she and several other New York City Transit employees contend is a lack of light-duty jobs made available for pregnant women who drive buses.

“There are other jobs we could do inside the depot, such as flagging the buses or working a desk job, but they won’t allow us,” Christian told THE CITY.  “We should be able to do something, because the bills don’t stop.”

Christian is among six women who on Thursday sued the MTA’s transit division in state court, accusing the agency of failing to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant bus operators. 

In 2020, the MTA created four new “restricted-duty announcer” positions for expectant mothers who work as train operators or conductors but are unable to spend shifts on trains. 

The new jobs for those who work on or near subway trains grew out of an MTA “pregnancy task force” created in the wake of lawsuits against the transit agency over accommodations for pregnant employees and after a subway employee gave birth to a stillborn baby at a Brooklyn subway yard, where she had been assigned to a temporary “light duty” role.

But bus drivers never got the same consideration.

“It’s confusing to me,” Christian said. “How don’t we have the same option as train operators to be able to work at a reasonable accommodation until we are close to giving birth?”

‘A Policy That Penalizes Pregnancy’

According to court papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, pregnant bus operators who are no longer able to drive buses in passenger service are being put in a position where they have to use their accumulated sick time, comp time and other time off in order to get paid. Some have high-risk pregnancies, or symptoms and complications that their doctors say should keep them off the road. 

“It’s really terrifying for a lot of these women to not know when they will have a paycheck coming in again,” said Laine Armstrong, a lawyer for the women.

The lawsuit comes as the MTA workforce is increasingly female. December 2023 agency records show that, in the first nine months of last year, 30% of New York City Transit’s 3,053 new hires were female. For the MTA’s overall workforce of more than 70,000 employees, 13,866, or 19% were female.

In 2019, 23% of New York City Transit’s 2,305 new hires in the first eight months of that year were female, with 18% of the MTA’s overall workforce comprised of women, according to agency records.

Five years earlier, in 2014, 20% of the 3,312 new hires at New York City Transit were females, records show.

“They’re hiring more and more young women of child-bearing age, and they’re still stuck with a policy that essentially penalizes pregnancy,” said JP Patafio, a Transport Workers Union Local 100 vice president who represents Brooklyn bus drivers. “It forces some of these young operators to be without pay because the transit authority is stuck in the 19th century.”

Stephanie Bogy, a Brooklyn bus operator who is seven months pregnant, said she had planned to work up until a month before the scheduled birth of her child — but her request to be placed in a light-duty role was denied last week.

Bogy, 42, said she had regularly experienced pain and sometimes felt nauseous while driving her B8 bus between Dyker Heights and East Flatbush.

“It’s difficult because of the medical condition — the pain of the baby pressing down, so sometimes I’d have to stop to breathe,” she said. “I would be like, ‘OK, this is hurting me.’”

Bogy, a bus operator for six years, said she is now using her few remaining sick days until her baby is born.

“We do get 12 weeks maternity [leave], but that doesn’t kick in until you have the baby,” she said.

Theresa Rodriguez, a 33-year-old probationary bus operator who is due to give birth at the end of May, said not being able to secure an alternative to driving for the MTA has been financially stressful.

“I’m hoping that [the lawsuit] changes [New York City] Transit’s perspective on finding something for us to do,” said Rodriguez, who is also among the plaintiffs. “Even if it’s something out of our own depot, just find us some kind of work so we’re not in a situation where we’re not able to afford to take care of ourselves or our kids.”

An MTA spokesperson declined to comment on the specifics of the case.

“NYC Transit takes the health and welfare of all employees very seriously, as is reflected in our policies and collective bargaining agreements,” spokesperson Joana Flores said in a statement to THE CITY. “Beyond that, we are unable to comment on pending litigation.”

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