After a host of former employees sued the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for pregnancy discrimination, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has now certified their complaints as a class action lawsuit. The certification should help the cases move more quickly.
As Federal News Network noted, the women all worked in the Office of Field Operations. When they told their supervisors that they were pregnant, their supervisors automatically placed them on Temporary Light Duty (TLD). They didn’t even ask the women if they felt they could still perform their normal duties. Overall, the CBP involuntarily placed 515 women on TLD since 2016.
This was pregnancy discrimination that led to harm
There’s little question that the actions taken against the women qualify as pregnancy discrimination. The Department of Labor (DOL) makes it clear that pregnancy discrimination doesn’t just include hiring or firing because of pregnancy. It also includes:
- Adopting any policies, written or unwritten, that limit employees’ terms, conditions or privileges of employment because of their pregnancies
- Refusing to allow a pregnant employee to perform her job as long as she is capable
- Deciding that an employee’s work is too dangerous for the fetus
- Denying assignments, promotions or opportunities to employees because of their pregnancies
Notably, the workers said the CBP never asked them for their input. “It was just assumed,” they said. As one noted, “It seemed the agency believed that my pregnancy would impede my competency.”
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 says that employers must accommodate pregnant women’s requests as they would any other disability or medical condition. However, the law makes it clear that employers should only make these adjustments if employees request them.
Meanwhile, it’s important to remember that employees do not go on TLD without consequences:
- By redirecting an employee’s duties and responsibilities, the decision largely negates the work the employees have done to develop their job-related skill sets
- Employees see cuts to overtime pay and job training opportunities
- They are less likely to earn their preferred schedules
- They may miss out on promotion opportunities
- Employees could lose their rights to carry a firearm and need, later, to requalify for the firearm
In short, when the CBP forced those women to TLD, it likely damaged their careers. Accordingly, their discrimination cases will attempt not only to show the discrimination but the extent of the harm they suffered as a result.
Discrimination shouldn’t be this pervasive
An EEOC Administrative Judge said that testimony from the CBP’s field offices confirmed a pattern of forced TLD. Indeed, the testimony from 11 of the nation’s 20 offices suggested that roughly 80% of all women who reported their pregnancies soon found themselves on involuntary TLD.
Obviously, this is not what federal employees should expect from their agencies. As Federal News Network noted, law enforcement agencies have long struggled to treat pregnant women fairly, but they need to change. This class action suit may help push things in the right direction.