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Wednesday, December 17, 2008
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Justice Department Files Sex Discrimination Lawsuit Against Hendry County, Florida Sheriff’s Office

WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice today filed of a lawsuit against Ronnie Lee, Sheriff of Hendry County, Fla., and the Hendry County Board of County Commissioners, alleging that the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) is engaged in a pattern or practice of sex discrimination, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin and religion.

The complaint alleges that HCSO discriminated against female officers by adopting and maintaining an unlawful policy that requires all pregnant employees to take light duty regardless of their ability to perform the essential functions of their jobs.

The complaint also alleges that HCSO discriminated against Tonya Shaw, a former deputy sheriff, by demoting her and reducing her pay when it learned that Ms. Shaw was pregnant, and by placing her on a mandatory light duty assignment without evaluating her ability to perform the essential functions of her job after she gave formal written notice of her pregnancy.

"Title VII protects pregnant women from employment discrimination," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Department is committed to vigorously enforcing all of the federal civil rights laws under its jurisdiction."

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, seeks an order enjoining HCSO from continuing to maintain its mandatory light duty policy for pregnant employees and requiring HCSO to adopt a policy regarding light duty that is lawful under Title VII. The complaint also seeks monetary damages and other relief for victims of sex discrimination by HCSO.

The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice is committed to the vigorous enforcement of Title VII. This is eleventh Title VII suit the Civil Rights Division has filed so far this year. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division and Title VII is available on its Web site at .