The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Connecticut (ACLU-CT) and Outten and Golden LLP reached a settlement today with the Wallingford Police Department on behalf of police officer Annie Balcastro, who had filed a discrimination charge claiming that she was denied light duty and forced to take unpaid leave when she was pregnant. (Balcastro vs. Town of Wallingford and Town of Wallingford Police Department, CHRO No. 1230482.)
“I was relieved when I learned that Connecticut protects pregnant women in the workplace,” said Balcastro. “You shouldn’t have to choose between working and starting a family.”
According to court documents, Balcastro learned that she was pregnant and unable to continue on patrol as a police officer in January 2012. She asked the police chief if she could be temporarily reassigned. In a pregnancy discrimination charge filed with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities in June 2012, Balcastro claimed that the chief denied her request and, instead of making a reasonable effort to transfer her to a suitable temporary position, the chief allegedly gave her no other option than to take unpaid leave.
“We’re very pleased with this settlement for Annie and we want other pregnant employees to understand their right to be accommodated under the Connecticut statute, particularly women in jobs traditionally held by men,” said Sandra Staub, legal director of the ACLU-CT.
The complaint charged that the police department’s unwritten policy of denying accommodations to pregnant officers violated state and federal civil rights laws, including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. Connecticut law states that it is a discriminatory practice for an employer “to fail or refuse to make a reasonable effort to transfer a pregnant employee to any suitable temporary position which may be available.”
“In a growing number of states, women like Annie Balcastro are fighting back against policies that push them out of the workplace when they are pregnant,” said Ariela Migdal, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “The ability to stay on the job is key to women’s equality in the workplace.”
As part of the settlement, Wallingford will pay Balcastro a negotiated sum.
“These laws are on the books for a reason and it’s important that women remind employers that they exist,” said Carmelyn P. Malalis, partner and co-chair of the Family Responsibilities and Disability Discrimination Practice Group at Outten & Golden LLP.