SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif.--(EON: Enhanced Online News)--On February 1, 2017, the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court permitted Officer Amanda Van Fleet, a corrections officer with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), to intervene in a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed against the CDCR by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) pursuant to its policing powers and based upon the CDCR’s treatment of Officer Van Fleet. Officer Van Fleet’s complaint alleges that she was placed on leave by the CDCR when she informed the CDCR that she was pregnant and requested minor work accommodations and that the CDCR has a pattern of discriminating against pregnant workers and workers with other permanent or temporary disabilities that require accommodation.
“Many employers view pregnant women as a liability instead of a resource”
Per the lawsuit, after Officer Van Fleet provided the CDCR a list of moderate restrictions placed on her work by her healthcare provider, Officer Van Fleet was told by the CDCR that she could choose between a leave, a “medical demotion” (requiring her to take a pay cut and disrupt her medical coverage), or alternatively, to withdraw her request for pregnancy accommodations and resume her job (but only if she “assume liability” for any risks associated with her working outside of her medical restrictions).
The CDCR has denied any wrongdoing, and has alleged that its treatment of Officer Van Fleet was “just, fair, privileged, with good cause, non-discriminatory and in good faith.” Officer Van Fleet’s lawyer, Christopher LeClerc, stated: “It is unfortunate that the CDCR could describe its conduct in those terms. The law requires an employer to engage in a good faith interactive process with a pregnant woman when she requests a reasonable accommodation. If it’s not an undue hardship, the employer must provide one.” The complaint alleges that Officer Van Fleet identified corrections officer posts that met her restrictions and that she was ready, willing, and able to perform, but the CDCR would not let her take those roles. LeClerc stated: “No one should have to decide between having or expanding their family, and their job. It is a shame that this lawsuit needed to be filed at all. She wanted to work, she was able to work, put her to work! She is a good officer and she has a family to support.”
LeClerc, who routinely handles cases involving pregnancy discrimination, stated that these types of issues are “unfortunately all too common.” “Many employers view pregnant women as a liability instead of a resource,” LeClerc said. “Unfortunately, the War on Women continues - even here in California.”
Officer Van Fleet alleges in the lawsuit that she was required by the CDCR to go on leave months before she planned, and as a result, she exhausted her financial leave benefits before she even delivered her new baby. This has put her family through very hard financial times. Officer Van Fleet stated, “I am taking this action because I feel that what happened to me was wrong. It should not have happened, and I cannot let it keep happening.” In the lawsuit, Officer Van Fleet is seeking numerous forms of relief, including an injunction against the CDCR to prohibit it from further discrimination against women and the disabled.
The case is entitled: Dept. of Fair Employment and Housing v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, San Luis Obispo Co. Sup. Crt., Case No. 16CV-0522.
If you have information related to this matter, or if you have experienced similar issues related to your pregnancy or disability while employed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Le Clerc & Le Clerc LLP would like to talk to you.