Pregnant Officers Can Perform Their Duties

On November 10, 2015, Legal Momentum (The Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund), the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and the EEOC each issued a press release announcing settlement of claims of pregnancy discrimination brought by female officers against the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA), the law enforcement division of the TBTA Operating Force will pay $206,500 to the affected officers and furnish other relief to resolve the charges.

TBTA is an affiliate agency of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates seven intrastate toll bridges and two tunnels in New York City. In terms of traffic volume, it is the largest bridge and tunnel toll agency in the United States, serving more than a million people each day. A female police officer can still perform her regular duties while pregnant.Prior to the announcement of this settlement, the TBTA routinely required pregnant Bridge and Tunnel Operating Force Officers to surrender their guns and work in less than full duty status, regardless of physical condition or ability to perform the requirements of the job. The lead Plaintiff in the case, Officer DiPalo claimed she was a stellar employee of the TBTA for six years before becoming pregnant. She alleged that she had worked as a security officer on the midnight shift, and reportedly made many successful arrests and stopped serious crimes from taking place. After learning that she was pregnant, the TBTA forced her to decide to take a toll booth job or go on disability leave until after her pregnancy. It did so despite being provided early in her pregnancy, with written opinions from her physicians that she could continue to perform the full range of her law enforcement duties, including carrying a firearm.Legal Momentum helped Officer DiPalo and twelve other officers file charges of pregnancy discrimination with the EEOC. After an investigation by the EEOC and the U.S. Department of Justice, the agencies found that the TBTA had violated the Civil Rights Act, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, by its practice of prohibiting female officers from performing law enforcement duties solely because they were pregnant. To resolve the claims, TBTA agreed to a settlement.

The United States Attorney filed the Complaint and Settlement Agreement at the same time in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, United States v. Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority a/k/a MTA Bridges and Tunnels, Civil Action No. CV-15-6417. Under the terms of the settlement, the TBTA will: (1) revise its EEO policy to create a new policy addressing fitness for duty status and workplace accommodations for Bridge and Tunnel Officers, (2) train all its employees on Title VII and the protection that Title VII affords pregnant employees, and (3) pay Officer DiPalo $100,000 in damages and $106,500 in damages collectively to a group of twelve other officers affected by the TBTA’s discriminatory practice.

“An employer cannot rely on stereotypes about pregnant employees in making decisions on their ability or inability to work,” said Kevin Berry, district director of the EEOC’s New York District. “Such conduct is unlawful as well as unfair and counterproductive. Eradicating pregnancy discrimination is an EEOC priority.”

What this means to you: As we emphasize in our Managing within the Law seminars, no employment decision should ever be made based on any assumptions about the applicant’s personal situation. Such decisions should be based only on such factors as qualifications, performance, needs of the business, knowledge, skills, and abilities. It is illegal to ever consider an employee’s, or applicant’s, pregnancy alone in making any decisions about their fitness for duty, or for hire. Therefore, managers must consult with HR and Legal, before making any decision which may be influenced by an applicant’s or an employee’s pregnancy.

Posted 12-15-2015

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.

2016-11-18T16:00:34+00:00

About the Author:

Steve Duggan graduated from the Law School at the University of Notre Dame while on active duty in the Air Force. He has extensive experience representing management litigating cases of wrongful termination, employment discrimination, and sexual harassment. Steve also has experience in all phases of administrative litigation of unfair labor practice charges, and class and individual complaints of employment discrimination. He has been an instructor of seminars for supervisors and managers on labor management relations and other personnel issues, and for lawyers in basic and advanced trial advocacy courses. Steve came on board with Fair Measures in 1998.