Earlier this week, we began a discussion about the gender discrimination allegations to recently come out of fire departments in several South Florida cities. The town of Davie was the subject of action by federal investigators in response to complaints that the town's fire department engaged in gender and pregnancy discrimination.
Ten female firefighters filed EEOC complaints about the department's policy regarding work reassignment during pregnancy. After a subsequent investigation, federal officials determined that the policy is in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The policy essentially dictates that pregnant women are to automatically be reassigned from full duty to light duty at the start of their second trimester. In practice, this has meant that women who needed to leave full duty early for health reasons were allegedly not allowed to do so; nor were women who were fit to stay on full duty during part of their second trimester.
As we wrote in our last post, this policy is not only discriminatory; it can seriously endanger the health of a pregnant employee and her unborn baby. According to one female firefighter, she miscarried just days after fighting a fire. She says she was not allowed to switch to light duty early, despite a medical need and a request from her doctor.
According to a recent news report, a settlement has been reached between the town of Davie and the U.S. Department of Justice. Some of the terms include an agreement by the town to train its supervisors on how to correctly handle discrimination complaints, as well as a requirement to adopt policies that protect employees from sex and pregnancy discrimination.
Understandably, many who were invested in this case had strong things to say about the allegations, including an assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. He said: "Decisions about how and when to restrict a pregnant woman's work duties should be made by the woman and her doctor, and employers must make certain that their policies and practices treat pregnant women the same as people who are similarly able or unable to work. We will not tolerate public employers engaging in this type of unlawful discrimination."
Source: Sun Sentinel, "Davie discriminated against pregnant firefighters, feds say," Susannah Bryan, June 22, 2012