Florida Fire Department Reaches Settlement with DOJ Over Pregnancy Discrimination

A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit brought by the US Justice Department against the town of Davie, Florida over the fire department’s treatment of pregnant employees.

According to the suit, the department prohibited pregnant employees from being placed on light duty status until they reached their second trimester, irrespective of their ability to perform their jobs or their doctors’ orders. In addition, the department required pregnant employees to leave active duty positions upon the start of the second trimester.

Both of these requirements are clear violations of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978.

The act prohibits discrimination “because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes, including receipt of benefits under fringe benefit programs, as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work”

While the town denied all accusations of discrimination, it entered into a consent decree with the US DOJ requiring it to treat pregnancy the same as any other condition that people may have. Pregnant women shall be allowed to be assigned light duty or full duty status to the same extent as other employees who have other conditions.

Assistant US Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez said “Decisions about how and when to restrict a pregnant woman’s work duties should be made by the woman and her doctor, and employers must make certain that their policies and practices treat pregnant women the same as people who are similarly able or unable to work.… We will not tolerate public employers engaging in this type of unlawful discrimination.”

Under the terms of the consent decree the town has 120 days to amend its policies to eliminate all sexual and pregnancy based discrimination. The town also consented to an injunction that prohibits any further discrimination or retaliation against any employee over the litigation or who exercises their rights under the pregnancy discrimination act. It is worth noting that should any town official or employee retaliate, it would be within the court’s discretion to find the guilty parties in contempt of court.

Here is a copy of the DOJ’s complaint. Davie FD Complaint

Here is a copy of the consent decree. Davie Consent Decree

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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