HARTFORD – The American Civil Liberties Union and American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut have reached a settlement with the Town of Cromwell, Connecticut on behalf of police officer Sarah Alicea, who filed a pregnancy discrimination charge against the town last year. When Alicea became pregnant with her daughter in 2017, the town refused to temporarily modify her job duties and instead forced her to take unpaid leave for the last four months of her pregnancy.
“I spoke out to seek justice for me and my family and to make sure no other woman police officer has to experience what I have gone through. I am glad Cromwell has agreed to a policy change to prevent pregnancy from costing another officer her paycheck, and I hope more police departments will follow the town’s lead by creating strong anti-discrimination policies,” said Alicea. “When we celebrated my daughter’s first birthday in August, I did so knowing that I’ve made the world a better place for her.”
The town of Cromwell has agreed to:
- Adopt a pregnancy policy by October 30, 2018 that conforms with state and federal protections for pregnant workers
- Inform employees of their right to pregnancy accommodation
- Establishes a procedure for employees to obtain reasonable accommodations for pregnancy while they work
The Town also agreed to reimburse Alicea for wages and paid time off benefits she lost during and immediately following her pregnancy.
“A woman’s employer should never discriminate against her for choosing to grow or start a family. Connecticut towns and cities should take note: discriminating against pregnant workers is illegal, and no worker should have to experience what Sarah went through. Every town and city in the state should adopt a strong policy to protect pregnant workers’ rights, as Cromwell has promised to do,” said Dan Barrett, legal director of the ACLU of Connecticut and an attorney on the case.
Federal law requires covered employers, including public employers such as police departments, to treat pregnant workers the same way they treat other workers who are “similar in their ability or inability to work,” while Connecticut law goes even further. In addition to forbidding employers from forcing pregnant employees out of work, Connecticut's Fair Employment Practices Act makes it illegal to limit a pregnant employee in a way that deprives her of employment opportunities; to refuse to accommodate an employee or applicant's pregnancy; to retaliate against a person for requesting an accommodation of pregnancy; force an employee to take a leave of absence when an accommodation would be possible; or force an employee to accept an accommodation that she does not need.
“It is regressive and unconstitutional to punish a public servant because she chose to have children. Our laws need to progress forward, and reflect that pregnancy and caregiving is a normal condition of employment,” said ACLU senior staff attorney Gillian Thomas. “We are hopeful that settlement achieved on behalf of Sarah and so many women like her will serve as a model for other departments across the country.”
The ACLU has previously succeeded in similar pregnancy discrimination cases, including a federal jury’s verdict against a Suffolk County, New York police department in 2006, finding the department discriminated against women officers by denying them access to limited duty positions, like working the precinct desk, during their pregnancies; and a settlement in 2013 of its complaint against the Wallingford, Connecticut police department on behalf of police officer Annie Balcastro, whom the department denied a “light duty” assignment while she was pregnant.
Alicea, represented by the ACLU and ACLU of Connecticut, filed a federal civil rights complaint in 2017 with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.
For a copy of the charge filed with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: https://www.acluct.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/20170828_alicea_eeoccharge.pdf