Justice Department Settles Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit Against Palm Beach County, Florida, School Board
According to the department’s complaint, the board discriminated on the basis of sex against Assistant Principal Anne Williams Dorsey of the Palm Beach County School District by unlawfully demoting her. The department alleges that after Dorsey became pregnant, her supervisor reassigned her to a position with less pay and benefits and filled her former position by replacing her with a male colleague she had trained. The department further alleges that Dorsey’s demotion was also unlawful retaliation against her for her efforts to report sexual harassment allegations, made by a third employee, against the male colleague who replaced her in her former position.
Under the consent decree, which still must be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, the board has agreed to pay $350,000 in back pay and compensatory damages to Dorsey. In addition, the board must review and revise its anti-discrimination policies and procedures to ensure that it protects its employees from discrimination on the basis of sex, including pregnancy, and unlawful retaliation. The board must also provide training to its employees on its anti-discrimination policies and procedures.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to preventing pregnancy discrimination and ensuring workplace equity,” said U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida. “A woman should never have to choose between having a family and pursuing her professional career. We are pleased that the Palm Beach County School Board has agreed to review its policies and procedures to ensure that it promotes a professional environment that is fully compliant with Title VII. Our Office will continue to enforce the right of pregnant employees to be free from employment discrimination and retaliation.”
“No woman should face discrimination for her decision to have a family,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division. “Women like Anne Williams Dorsey deserve the full enforcement of this nation’s employment discrimination laws, which ensure that they do not lose valuable positions, pay or benefits because of their pregnancies.”
Title VII is a federal statute which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex (including pregnancy), race, color, national origin or religion. Title VII also prohibits retaliation against an employee who opposes an unlawful employment practice, makes a charge of discrimination or participates in an investigation, proceeding or hearing under the Civil Rights Act.
Dorsey initially filed charges of sex discrimination and retaliation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Miami Field Office, which investigated the matter, determined there was reasonable cause to believe discrimination had occurred and referred the matter to the Justice Department.
The case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Veronica Harrell-James of the Southern District of Florida and Trial Attorneys Nadia Said and Louis Whitsett of the Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section.
The continued enforcement of Title VII is a priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about Title VII and other federal employment laws is available on the Civil Rights Division’s website at www.justice.gov/crt.