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Lochren v. County of Suffolk (Challenging discriminatory policy affecting pregnant police officers)

This case involves the discriminatory impact of a Suffolk County Police Department policy affecting pregnant employees. In April 2000, the Suffolk County Police Department ended its policy of providing pregnant officers with temporary “light-duty” assignments such as desk jobs. As a result, pregnant officers were disqualified from these assignments and forced to take unpaid leaves from their jobs while other officers, a predominantly male group of officers with injuries, continued to be granted “light-duty” assignments.

On June 6, 2001, the Reproductive Rights Project (RRP), along with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project (WRP), filed a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit in federal district court against the Suffolk County Police Department on behalf of three female officers. Three additional officers later joined the suit. In June 2003, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a Probable Cause Determination, finding that the Police Department discriminated against all six plaintiffs because of the new light-duty policy. In an attempt to broaden the reach of the lawsuit, the RRP and WRP filed a motion for class certification (whereby any woman who was pregnant while the policy was in effect — whether or not she was party to the lawsuit — could benefit from the trial’s result), but the District Court denied it in March 2005. The court also at that time denied both sides’ motions for summary judgment.

On June 5, 2006, the case went to trial. On June 14, 2006, the federal jury found that the Police Department policy itself was discriminatory and that the Department discriminated intentionally against two of the officers. The jury awarded damages to all six plaintiffs. In January 2007, the parties signed a consent decree that requires the Suffolk County Police Department to permit pregnant officers to serve light duty for six months of their pregnancies. The plaintiffs were also awarded their financial settlement. 

E.D.N.Y., Index No. 01 Civ. 3925 (LDW) (direct) 

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