I’m a Police Officer Serving My Community. My Pregnancy Made Me Unwelcome On the Force.

As a woman working in law enforcement, I’ve become accustomed to being in the minority — it’s something women know when choosing a career in policing. But after six years on the job, what I didn’t anticipate was the discrimination I would face for being pregnant. 

I joined the police department in my hometown of Cromwell, Connecticut, four years ago. I’ll never forget the pride I felt when my mother pinned my badge on me at my swearing in ceremony while my family looked on.

I’ve worked hard to serve the community where I grew up. During the academic year, I serve as a school resource officer in two public schools, and in the summers I return to regular patrol duty. I’m proud of the relationships I’ve built with school administrators, teachers, and students so that they see me as a trusted colleague and friend — not just “the police.”

Late last year, my husband and I were ecstatic when we learned that we were expecting our first child. Our excitement, however, soon turned to anger and frustration because of how I was treated by my department and the Town of Cromwell.

In March, when I shared my news with my chief, I hoped that I would be able to keep working at the station. There is so much administrative work that comes with policing, such as interviewing witnesses, writing reports, and issuing permits.

But the town manager refused to even discuss temporarily assigning me to non-patrol work. Instead, I was told to go home on unpaid leave and not return until after I gave birth. I left that meeting stunned. Being pregnant did not mean I was incapable of working, or that I was sick or injured. That’s why federal and state law prohibits employers from penalizing pregnant women. 

I haven’t worked since March and haven’t had any income since early July, when I exhausted all of my accrued paid sick, vacation, and personal time – time I had been saving to use after my baby was born, while I recovered from childbirth and bonded with my child.  Instead, financial worries will force me back to work as soon as I’m medically cleared. My husband is a combat-wounded veteran and fulltime student; I am the only source of income for our family right now.  It isn’t right that my male colleagues can start their families without worrying about being pushed out of work or losing their paychecks. And my fellow officers who are hurt on the job are paid their full salaries while they’re unable to work. I feel I am being treated unfairly because, as a woman, starting a family has physical consequences for me.

Sarah Alicea and her family

The thought of returning to work after months of not being paid, and without any leave time left, makes me worried and anxious during what should be the happiest time of my life. What will I do if my newborn child is ill and I am unable to take a few hours off of work to be with her?

filed a complaint of discrimination on Monday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities — not out of anger or revenge, but rather to educate my community about how I and other women in law enforcement are being treated. I don’t want another woman on the Cromwell police force, or any other police force, to have to experience what I’ve gone through.

My town broke the law, and its policy needs to change so that pregnancy doesn’t cost officers their paychecks. We must be afforded the same opportunities as male officers, and female officers who don’t have kids.

My husband and I welcomed our healthy baby girl Sofia into the world on August 21. I hope that she will be proud of me for taking a stand. 

If you have experienced sex discrimination in employment, please take a few moments to tell us your story.

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Barbara H Dennis

Thanks to the ACLU for defending your rights

Anonymous

I love Skinheds
Stuff fruit into the tail pipe of police vehicles. Pour salt water into the gas tanks. Paint the vehicles with messages of love and peace. They hate positive messages more than being called a "pig". If you work at a drive through, snot in, piss in, or rub their food on the floor before serving.

Never ever do anything violent, resist peacefully.

Anonymous

Yes, everything you said is rough and I'm glad you're suing. Stay strong and encourage your husband to carry the load at home. There's not a reason in the world you should be taking a sick kid to the doctors when you have a husband who can juggle his schedule.

Hope

Excuse you? I'm sure you didn't mean to be rude, but that comment is. Caring for a child is the responsibility of both parents. I work full- time and my husband is a SAHD, but I still like to schedule dr appts so that I can go too. And if he's in school, there are consequences for his missing class too.

Anonymous

I'm not a lawyer bit when the company I was working for 7 years ago told me that they were going to fire me because I was spending an extra 4 minutes a day in the restroom due to morning sickness I said "fine, then I will use my short term disability since morning sickness/pregnancy is a medical condition." We had a bit of a fight about whether I could or not and I turned out to be right - so there HR Department! Anyway, I got an extra 6 weeks off and was paid 2/3 of my regular pay.

Jamie

You are strong and an inspiration! Thank you for standing up for yourself and the brave women who follow you.

Anonymous

Makes me happy to pay for my ACLU membership.

Anonymous

I worked in as a Park Ranger in the early 90's. Already had about 10 years of experience under my belt. Became pregnant and my male co-workers were not happy to be working with a pregnant woman. I put up with a lot lousy job assignments and nasty comments. Before that when I was first starting out I worked on a very small fire crew (myself, and two male coworkers). We made up a labor work team/fire crew running fence lines in upper Nevada. Worked for a guy who didn't believe in women working on a maintenance/fire crew. Made it a living hell. Wasn't going to let me live in the bunk house when we were at home base or in the trailer when out in the field. So I had to leave all my stuff in his garage. His reasoning I would be a tease to my two male co-workers. The guy who actually hired me and my co-workers were good with me living and working with them. This immediate boss was an ass. He finally was trying to finagle me to work in the office in the main town about a half hour away. I ended up quitting and going to California to work for another agency.

Anonymous

I also worked as a park ranger in the early 90's, and it was rough. The majority of men were fine with me working there once I proved myself. There were a few who just didn't accept a woman in the position, and they were extremely vocal. I mostly worked by myself or trained the interns. I hope it is better now, because that was the greatest job ever.

Anonymous

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