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Pregnant Officer Policies

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 51 Issue: 9 Dated: September 2003 Pages: 74-78
Carole Moore
Date Published
September 2003
5 pages
This article explains Federal law pertinent to a police department's policies toward pregnant officers and suggests ways in which department's can comply with the mandates.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, states explicitly that discrimination on the basis of pregnancy constitutes a type of sex discrimination. Under the provisions of the PDA, an employer is not required to provide light- duty assignments, leave time, or even health insurance coverage to pregnant employees; however, if any of these benefits are provided to officers for other conditions, such as a temporary back injury or heart attack, then the agency cannot deny such benefits to pregnant officers. If a male or female officer suffers a nonservice-related temporary disability, such as an injury or illness, and is allowed to go on light or limited duty, then the department must also provide the same option for a pregnant officer. Conversely, a department that has no light-duty assignments is not required to provide one for pregnant officers. The Family and Medical Leave Act does not apply to light-duty assignments, but it does require employers to allow up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain purposes, including pregnancy and childbirth. Should a pregnant officer wish to continue in her assignment during most of a pregnancy period and is fully capable of doing so, attempts to force the officer into light duty or unwanted leave can be grounds for a claim of discrimination. The key issue is whether the officer can continue to perform her customary duties. If a department allows a pregnant officer to continue her customary duties until such time as she and her physician choose to limit her activities, then it is likely the courts will not hold the department liable for job-related injuries under those circumstances. Organizations such as the National Center for Women and Policing advocate departments providing employees with enough information to make informed decisions about their duty assignments and pregnancies. The Center also urges agencies to adopt light-duty policies that include pregnancy, comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act, exempt pregnant officers from range qualification, provide paid leave and disability insurance, and issue maternity uniforms.