May 8, 2017
After all these years, organizations are still discriminating against pregnant employees. But now they have to pay for it . On November 10, 2015, Legal Momentum (The Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund), the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) each issued a press release announcing settlement of claims of pregnancy discrimination brought by female officers against the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA), an affiliate agency of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates seven intrastate toll bridges and two tunnels in New York City.
The law enforcement division of the TBTA Operating Force will pay $206,500 to the affected officers and furnish other relief to resolve the charges.
Prior to the announcement of this settlement, the TBTA required pregnant Bridge and Tunnel Operating Force Officers to surrender their guns and work in less than full duty status, regardless of physical condition or ability to perform the requirements of the job. The lead Plaintiff in the case, Officer DiPalo claimed she was a stellar employee of the TBTA for six years before becoming pregnant. She alleged that she had worked as a security officer on the midnight shift, and reportedly made many successful arrests and stopped serious crimes from taking place. After learning that she was pregnant, the TBTA forced her to decide to take a toll booth job or go on disability leave until after her pregnancy. It did so despite being provided early in her pregnancy, with written opinions from her physicians that she could continue to perform the full range of her law enforcement duties, including carrying a firearm.
Legal Momentum helped Officer DiPalo and twelve other officers file charges of pregnancy discrimination with the EEOC. After an investigation by the EEOC and the U.S. Department of Justice, the agencies found that the TBTA had violated the Civil Rights Act, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, by its practice of prohibiting female officers from performing law enforcement duties solely because they were pregnant. To resolve the claims, TBTA agreed to a settlement.
Under the terms of the settlement, the TBTA will: (1) revise its EEO policy to create a new policy addressing fitness for duty status and workplace accommodations for Bridge and Tunnel Officers, (2) train all its employees on Title VII and the protection that Title VII affords pregnant employees, and (3) pay Officer DiPalo $100,000 in damages and $106,500 in damages collectively to a group of twelve other officers affected by the TBTA’s discriminatory practice.
“An employer cannot rely on stereotypes about pregnant employees in making decisions on their ability or inability to work,” said Kevin Berry, District Director of the EEOC’s New York District. “Such conduct is unlawful as well as unfair and counterproductive. Eradicating pregnancy discrimination is an EEOC priority.”
It is illegal to ever consider an employee’s, or applicant’s, pregnancy alone in making any decisions about their fitness for duty, or for hire. Therefore, managers must consult with the Human Resource and Legal departments, before making any decision which may be influenced by an applicant’s or an employee’s pregnancy.