The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) found itself on the wrong side of the courtroom for alleged discrimination against a pregnant corrections officer.
The Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit Nov. 2 in SLO County Superior Court on behalf of the officer, identified as Amanda Van Fleet, claiming that the CDCR failed to properly accommodate her medical condition while she was pregnant and working at the California Men’s Colony (CMC).
According to the lawsuit Van Fleet, who worked as a correctional officer for more than five years, became pregnant in early 2016. Her doctor recommended that she be assigned to a post in CMC that would allow her to sit and have access to a bathroom. In response, the CDCR suggested that she resign her position as a peace officer and accept a demotion and reassignment to a civil service position. The only other option the department offered Van Fleet, according to the suit, was to continue working at CMC with no accommodations, as she agreed to assume liability for any injury she might incur.
Van Fleet later learned that a position in the control room, which has chairs and a bathroom, was available. She applied for a transfer, but it was denied. She was forced to take unpaid leave, the lawsuit stated.
“After using all accumulated leave, she received no further salary from CDCR,” the lawsuit stated. “CDCR refused and continues to refuse to assign her to the control room or to provide any other … form of reasonable accommodation.”
Van Fleet filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing in May. The suit charges the department with discrimination and retaliation based on gender and pregnancy and is seeking to enforce California law that ensures a discrimination-free environment for all workers. The Department of Fair Employment and Housing is also asking the court to order CDCR to pay Van Fleet for her loss of income and benefits, as well as for emotional pain and suffering.
As of Nov. 16, the CDCR had not filed a response. Lt. Monica Ayon, a spokesperson for CMC, could not comment on the lawsuit.