The Justice Department today announced it has reached a consent decree with the town of Davie, Fla., to resolve allegations that Davie engaged in a pattern or practice of intentional discrimination against pregnant firefighters employed by Davie’s fire department.
The consent decree was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida along with a complaint alleging that Davie violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin and religion. Under Title VII, discrimination based on sex explicitly includes discrimination based on pregnancy. It requires that women affected by pregnancy be treated the same as other employees who are similar in their ability or inability to perform their job.
According to the department’s complaint, the Davie fire department has operated under a policy or practice of denying a pregnant firefighter light duty until the start of her second trimester regardless of her medical or physical needs. Despite this restriction on a pregnant firefighter’s ability to obtain light duty in her first trimester, the fire chief routinely granted other firefighters’ requests for light duty for non-work related injuries. The fire department also required pregnant firefighters to leave active firefighting duty upon the start of their second trimester regardless of their ability to fulfill the essential functions of their positions. According to the department’s complaint, these policies and practices constituted a pattern or practice of discrimination against pregnant female firefighters based on sex and pregnancy.
Under the terms of the consent decree, which must still be approved by the federal court, Davie must review and adopt appropriate policies to protect its employees from discrimination on the basis of sex, including pregnancy, and conduct training of its fire department personnel to ensure that they properly handle future complaints of discrimination.
“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,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Title VII’s prohibitions against discrimination in the workplace make clear that discrimination based on pregnancy is a form of discrimination based on sex. We will not tolerate public employers engaging in this type of unlawful discrimination.”
“The policies and practices of the Davie Fire Department regarding the assignment of light duty for pregnant women were sexually discriminatory,” said Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the South District of Florida. Discrimination on the basis of sex and pregnancy is illegal. We are hopeful that today’s settlement will lead to the establishment of new policies that will promote and respect the rights of all employees to equal opportunities.”
The continued enforcement of Title VII has been a priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its website at www.usdoj.gov/crt/.