Police Department Settles with Two Female Police Officers in Pregnancy Discrimination Case

Our sources report that two female police officers won a pregnancy discrimination case in federal court alleging that the city’s policy toward pregnant women violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (“PDA”) and Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”). The policy did not allow pregnant women to work a lighter duty. Rather, it left them with two choices – either keep working the streets on patrol or take time off. Both of these choices created major problems for the Plaintiffs and others in their position. Working the streets on patrol when pregnant was an extremely difficult endeavor even while not carrying around all the extra weight. Merely putting on the gun belt and bullet-proof vest was difficult enough. At the same time, taking time off left the Plaintiffs with no income and the loss of health insurance (not married so could not use their husband’s health insurance).

The two Plaintiffs filed their charges of pregnancy and disability discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Then, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division got involved and arrived at a settlement of $135,000 in damages. Similar cases have been handled by courts in recent years with the trend going toward ensuring that cities did not make it burdensome to start a family. The EEOC reports that pregnancy discrimination cases have increased from 4,000 in the 1990s to 6,000 in recent years. What changed was a culture movement against employment discrimination as well as a Supreme Court ruling in 2015 where it was decided that an employee may sue for pregnancy discrimination if an employer refused to make accommodations while making accommodation for other workers who have similar limitations. Here, the city’s policy permitted light duty for those who had suffered on-the-job injuries, but not for pregnant women. This is considered unequal treatment under the PDA and ADA and thus a violation.

Providing “reasonable accommodation” takes place when employers alter the way that the work may be performed, through special equipment or scheduling, to allow disabled individuals to complete their jobs. The only way that employers would not be required to provide this accommodation is if it would result in “undue hardship” to the employer. Undue hardship comes in the form of extremely problematic or costly to the employer. Either way, the disabled employee must complete the main functions of her job when she is provided with a reasonable accommodation.

In 2014, California’s legislature passed Government Code 50479 which required most public airports to provide a room (not merely a restroom with a chair and electrical outlet) to pump breast milk in private. In 2015, California expanded this requirement to schools operated by school districts and charter schools to provide “reasonable accommodation” to lactating pupils on school campus to express/pump breast milk, breastfeed an infant or address other related needs. (Cal. Education Code § 222). See these other blogs for samples of Pregnancy Disability Leave examples.

If you believe that you, or other employees, suffered an employment law matter related to pregnancy disability leave, gender discrimination or related retaliation in the workplace, prompt action to preserve your rights is crucial since the statute of limitation is a short one year. Contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Stephen Danz & Associates for a free no obligation consultation to discuss your circumstances and legal options.