|Chief Penny Eileen Harrington|
One of the most frequent questions we receive at the National Center for Women & Policing is from women officers who are pregnant and trying to find out what other agencies are doing on issues of pregnant officers. As law enforcement agencies increase their numbers of women employees, they are bound to face this issue. "Recruiting & Retaining Women: A Self-Assessment Guide for Law Enforcement" written by the National Center for Women & Policing provides information and resources to address this issue. Insert hotlink here. The guide includes contact information and model policies. The following excerpts are taken from the guide:
Agencies Are Not Providing Employees With Adequate Information. Providing employees with clear policies is the first step in addressing the needs of pregnant employees. While the passage of the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) established federal minimum leave requirements for private, state, and local government employees, it does not cover the full range of issues that women in law enforcement face when they become pregnant. There is a tendency for departments to rely too heavily on the FMLA, neglecting to provide women with the specific policies and information on such important issues as notification procedures, availability of light duty assignments, paid and unpaid leave benefits, range qualification for pregnant employees, maternity uniforms, and other issues.
Some Agencies Have Unlawfully Discriminated Against Pregnant Employees. One of the biggest complaints from pregnant female sworn officers is that when they notify their department that they are pregnant, they are removed from their position. There are sometimes no efforts to find light duty positions for pregnant women.
Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition is discrimination on the basis of sex. Women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions should be treated the same for all employment-related purposes, including receipt of benefits, as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work. For example, pregnant women should be treated the same as a man who breaks his leg in an off-duty accident. Employers are prohibited from forcing a pregnant employee to take disability leave as long as the employee is still physically fit to work. Employers may not alter a woman's assignment against her will based on her pregnancy if that decision is based on stereotypes about what kind of work pregnant women should do or on concerns about how the public or other officers will react to a pregnant officer.
The FMLA provides agencies with a starting point for developing leave policies. This law contains provisions on such issues as employer coverage, employee eligibility, entitlement to leave, maintenance of health benefits during leave, job restoration after leave, notice and certification of the need for FMLA leave, and protection for employees who request or take FMLA leave.
The FMLA provides minimum guarantees. It does not take away other benefits provided through employer policy or collective bargaining agreements. Moreover, many state laws provide greater protections for pregnant and parenting employees than the federal FMLA. Thus, if contract or state law already requires the department to provide more family and medical leave than the FMLA mandates, the FMLA does not reduce that requirement. Agencies must comply with whichever provisions are most generous to the employee. Correspondingly, collective bargaining agreements may not be used to diminish workers' rights under the FMLA. Similarly, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) requires that pregnant women and women disabled by childbirth or related medical conditions be treated at least as well as employees who are not pregnant but who are similar in their ability or inability to work. The PDA does not prohibit the provision of additional benefits to pregnant employees.
US Supreme Court decision in UAW v. Johnson Controls. In this landmark sex discrimination case, the Supreme Court ruled that employers were prohibited from adopting fetal-protection policies that exclude women of child-bearing age from certain hazardous jobs. This decision as well as others has established that employers are prohibited from forcing a pregnant employee to take disability leave as long as the employee is still physically fit to work.
The most important first step a department can take is to develop a comprehensive policy regarding pregnancy and childcare issues. An agency policy should cover the following areas:
Agencies that seem to be supportive of their employees with pregnancy issues and who could be contacted for further information are:
· Portland Oregon Police Bureau - Commander Lynnae Berg
· New York State Police - Colonel Deborah Campbell
· Houston Police Department - Women's Coordinator
Sites with Further Information
We have listed below some sites that will give you further information about pregnancy discrimination. If you believe that you have experienced discrimination and intend to file a complaint, remember that there is a statute of limitations that may vary from state to state. Check with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission office nearest you or check with your state Department of Labor for more information on how to file a formal complaint.
- EEOC fact sheet on employees rights in pregnancy discrimination
- If you are a federal employee
- EEOC statistics on pregnancy discrimination case
- National Employment Lawyers
- Workplace Fairness
What you can do if you've been discriminated against >>
| Recognizing Harassment
You Can Do