Bill to Provide a Safer Workplace for Pregnant Correctional Officers Advances

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Bill to Provide a Safer Workplace for Pregnant Correctional Officers Advances

SACRAMENTO – Today, Assembly Bill (AB) 1906, authored by Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), passed with bipartisan support out of the Assembly Committee on Public Employment and Retirement. This legislation will provide reasonable working accommodations for all pregnant correctional officers to improve workplace conditions for female officers. Assemblymember Salas introduced the legislation after a former correctional office at the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi sued the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) alleging that she was denied the opportunity to take a light-duty assignment while pregnant, and subsequently fell while responding to a fight between two inmates leading to the loss of her unborn child during her seventh month of pregnancy. Until 2015, CDCR allowed pregnant officers to work light-duty assignments.

 

“The practice of denying working accommodations to pregnant correctional officers is appalling, discriminatory and unacceptable,” said Assemblymember Salas. “I am pleased to see the Legislature move one step closer to ending this senseless practice and creating an equal working environment for all correctional officers.”

 

According to reporting from the Bakersfield Californian, after being denied reasonable accommodations for work while she was pregnant, CDCR informed the correctional officer that she “could stay in her current position and work until five weeks before her due date, accept a demotion that would result in less pay and loss of benefits, or take leave. Because the correctional officer couldn’t afford to go on leave, she stayed in her current position.” After the tragic incident resulting in the loss of her unborn baby, the officer filed a lawsuit against CDCR.

 

A Kern County Superior Court judge ruled in the correctional officer’s favor and awarded damages to her. A class action lawsuit has also been filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of six women who were denied common accommodations while they were pregnant. A judge has ruled a temporary injunction that makes light-duty assignments available to the six women who sued the state.

 

AB 1906 will require CDCR to provide light-duty accommodations to all pregnant correctional officers, removing the possibility that correctional officers will face the decision in the future to continue working in a job that could risk their babies’ health, take a demotion, or take a leave absence. This bill will provide critical protections to end gender discrimination against pregnant correctional officers in the workplace.

 

AB 1906 will be heard next in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

 

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Assemblymember Salas represents part of the City of Bakersfield, the cities of Arvin, Avenal, Corcoran, Delano, Hanford, Lemoore, McFarland, Shafter, Wasco, and the communities of Armona, Buttonwillow, Home Garden, Kettleman City, Lamont, Lost Hills, Stratford and Weedpatch.