Like many women, police officer Annie Balcastro of Wallingford, CT faced an uncertain future when she had to request a light-duty accommodation during her pregnancy. Many pregnant workers whose jobs entail physical activity are pushed out of the workforce when pregnant, even though their employers have provisions in place for other workers who are temporarily unable to do all aspects of their jobs, such as injured workers. Currently, fewer than ten states require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees who want to remain on the job but are unable to perform some aspect of their job during pregnancy.
Fortunately for Annie Balcastro, Connecticut is one of the states whose laws specifically protect the rights of pregnant workers to stay on the job. The state law deems it discrimination for an employer to fail to make a reasonable effort to provide a transfer to any suitable temporary position for a pregnant employee who needs an accommodation. In 2012, Annie Balcastro filed a complaint against the Wallingford Police Department claiming that the Department refused to give her a light-duty assignment or transfer her to a suitable temporary position, instead forcing her to take unpaid leave during her pregnancy. The charge alleged that while police officers could take paid leave for on-duty injuries, pregnant officers had to work full duty or go onto unpaid leave. Last Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Connecticut, and the law firm of Outten and Golden LLP, reached a settlement on Annie's behalf with the Department.
A number of other states, including California and Michigan, have similar statutory provisions forbidding employers from pushing pregnant women out of the workplace when they need minor accommodations. Maryland passed a similar protection this year, which will be signed by the governor this month, and New York and other states are trying to pass similar legislation. We encourage workers in these states to make their voices heard, and to enact protections that will protect workers – as Connecticut workers are protected – from having to choose between working and starting a family.