A federal court jury sided with a Suffolk Park Police officer who claimed she was discriminated against when her employer denied her request for a “light-duty” assignment when she became pregnant in 2007.
Tara Germain, who was given the choice to either work during her pregnancy or take unpaid leave, prevailed on several claims she made against Suffolk County, as jurors found that her civil rights were violated.
“We are really happy,” said Janice Goodman, an attorney who argued the case before U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Spatt with Gillian Thomas, an attorney for Legal Momentum, a women’s rights group formerly known as the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund.
“We believe the rights of women have been affirmed a second time on the issue of not forcing a woman to have to choose between her job and having a family,” Goodman added, referring to an earlier case against Suffolk County involving pregnant officers.
Goodman said jurors, who will decide on whether Germain will receive damages later this month, found that the Park Police’s policy of denying pregnant women light duty was discriminatory, having an adverse impact on women – and that there was no business necessity that justified it.
They also found that the department retaliated against Germain by not allowing her to access paid leave time that her husband, a Suffolk police sergeant, had offered to donate to her, Goodman said.
They rejected her claim that she was discriminated against when she applied for a promotion to sergeant.
County Attorney Christine Malafi said: “We understand the jury’s verdict to afford protections to pregnant officers. But we do not wish this to be a precedent for others seeking light-duty status.”
Germain’s case was decided three years after Lochren v. Suffolk County, which involved several pregnant Suffolk County police officers who successfully sued when the department adopted a new policy that denied light-duty assignments for anyone, pregnant or not, who wasn’t hurt on the job.
Six officers filed that lawsuit and in June 2006 a jury awarded each at least $5,000.
Germain seeks compensation for having to use sick days, vacation days and personal leave. She also wants punitive damages and an order allowing her to do light-duty work.
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