The Department of Justice announced today the filing of a lawsuit against Niagara County, N.Y., alleging that Niagara County discriminated against Carisa Boddecker, a corrections officer with the Niagara County Sheriff’s Department, when it forced her to take a leave of absence during her pregnancy. According to the complaint, Niagara County’s actions were a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. Title VII is a federal statute that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, including pregnancy, as well as race, color, national origin and religion.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York in Buffalo, N.Y., alleges that Boddecker informed her employer of her pregnancy and requested an assignment with no inmate contact, as she was entitled to do under her employer’s pregnancy policy. However, according to the complaint, Niagara County failed to follow its own policy regarding assignments for pregnant corrections officers and also failed to provide the same accommodations to Boddecker that it had provided to corrections officers with other temporary medical disabilities. Instead, Niagara County placed Boddecker on an involuntary leave of absence and allowed her to return to work only after she filed a complaint of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The United States’ complaint seeks a court order requiring Niagara County to develop and implement policies that would prevent its employees from being subjected to discrimination based upon sex. The United States also seeks monetary relief for Boddecker to compensate her for the damages she sustained as a result of the alleged discrimination.
Boddecker originally filed a charge of sex discrimination with the EEOC, whose Buffalo office investigated the matter, determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that discrimination had occurred, and referred the matter to the Department of Justice.
“Employers must provide pregnant women with the same accommodations they provide to employees who are not pregnant but who are similarly able or unable to work,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Women should not have to choose between their pregnancies and their jobs, and the Civil Rights Division will continue to vigorously enforce the right of pregnant employees to be free of discrimination in the workplace.”
The continued enforcement of Title VII is a priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice is available on its website at www.usdoj.gov/crt .