Friday, May 3, 2013

Settlement In Sexual Discrimination Case Finally Announced

More than a month after the New Haven Register first reported that Wallingford Town Council had agreed to settle a sexual discrimination case in which a female police officer claimed she had been denied a request for light duty after she became pregnant, a settlement in the case was officially announced.

As part of the town's settlement with Annie Balcastro, she will receive an unspecified amount of money, according to the Connecticut office of the American Civil Liberties Union. officials. Because Wallingford does not provide light duty opportunities for its officers, Balcastrowas forced to take an upaid leave of absence.

“I was relieved when I learned that Connecticut protects pregnant women in the workplace,” she said in a statement. “You shouldn't have to choose between working and starting a family.”

The sexual discrimination charge was filed last June after Wallingford Police Chief Douglas Dortenzio denied  Balcastro a light duty assignment.

Mayor William Dickinson Jr. said he supported the chief's decision as well as the  council’s vote, which he called “a business decision.”

“It would not have made sense for us to litigate this matter because our insurance company was urging us to settle,” Dickinson said.“If we had not settled and a ruling had gone against us, the town would have been solely responsible for any financial damages."

Dickinson said he supports Dortenzio’s policy “because if we offer light duty to one person, than you have to offer it to everyone.”

“If you want to be a police officer, you have to be able to do all the work that entails,” the mayor said.

Dickinson said Bolcastro was offered clerical work with another town department during her pregnancy. He said the town has faced similar legal challenges before and “we’ve prevailed in every one of those.”

Sandra Staub, legal director for Connecticut's ACLU chapter, the pregnant employees in all types of jobs need to "understand their right to be accommodated under the Connecticut statute, particularly women in jobs traditionally held by men."

The complaint charged that the police department’s unwritten policy of denying accommodations to pregnant officers violated state and federal civil rights laws, including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. Connecticut law states that it is a discriminatory practice for an employer “to fail or refuse to make a reasonable effort to transfer a pregnant employee to any suitable temporary position which may be available.”
Ariela Migdal, senior staff attorney at the ACLU, said "the ability to stay on the job is key to women’s equality in the workplace.”

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