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Pregnant bus drivers suing MTA, say agency won’t make accommodations

Six MTA bus drivers are suing the transit agency, arguing that they’ve been forced to burn through their time off and even take unpaid leave after getting pregnant.

PUBLISHED: April 30, 2024 at 6:47 p.m. | UPDATED: April 30, 2024 at 7:08 p.m.

Six MTA bus drivers are suing the transit agency, arguing that they’ve been forced to burn through their time off and even take unpaid leave after getting pregnant.

“I was put out of work two and a half months ago. It’s been unpaid the whole time,” Theresa Rodriguez, a pregnant bus driver out of the Fresh Pond depot, told reporters at a meeting of the MTA’s board Tuesday.

Rodriguez, a recent MTA hire who has yet to accrue many days off, said her high-risk pregnancy keeps her from being able to drive a bus.

She said the transit agency won’t assign her to light-duty work, so she’s been forced to take federally protected unpaid leave.

“My savings have been depleted, I’ve been struggling to pay my bills, feed myself,” she said.

“Even with my insurance, I still have co-payments, which I’m currently behind on as well.”

“I’m asking that Transit please, please find something for bus operators to do, within or even outside of our depots,” she said. “Anything will help, aside from putting us out of work without pay.”

The lawsuit, filed earlier this month and first reported in The City, alleges the MTA is violating New York human rights law by not giving the drivers sufficient opportunity to do other work if pregnancy makes them temporarily unable to perform their normal duties.

The women are asking to be reassigned to desk work for the remainder of their pregnancies.

“The baby’s in there moving,” said another driver, Latoya Christian, when asked how pregnancy kept her from driving. “It was a lot, I was very nauseous from the bouncing of the bus.

“I had to get off the bus — to vomit — get back on the bus. Do you know how much of a disruption of service that is?” she added.

Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents the system’s bus operators, won 12 weeks of maternity leave in contract negotiations with the MTA last year, up from just two weeks prior.

But Rodriguez, who said she has now exhausted her unpaid leave, said she’s worried she won’t be able to take the time she needs to care for a baby.

“After we have these babies, what are we to do about doctors’ appointments? Or, you know, if the baby’s sick? They’ve put us in a really bad situation.”

“My [unpaid leave] has already been used up, unfortunately,” she added. “So after I have my baby, I will have my maternity leave and after that I’m basically left to my own devices.

“How do we get a day off to be able to take our babies to the doctor’s appointments?”

Transit brass said Tuesday that the pending lawsuit limited their ability to respond directly to the drivers’ claims.

“Our last contract dramatically expanded family medical leave,” said Paige Graves, MTA’s general counsel.

“This issue of accommodation was assigned to a joint labor and management task force to address these issues and discuss how things could be improved,” Graves said. “Because it’s now in litigation, my comments are going to be limited and we’ll just hash it out in court.”

The MTA faced a similar action in 2019 when a pregnant subway conductor sued over procedural hurdles required to get lighter-duty work.

Several temporary announcer jobs were created as true light-duty positions in 2020 after an A train conductor gave birth to a stillborn baby while working at a subway yard in Brooklyn.

The woman had been given an alternate position working a hand switch in the East New York yard days before the tragedy.

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