WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced the filing of a lawsuit against the Chicago Board of Education, alleging that the board discriminated against pregnant teachers at Scammon Elementary School by subjecting them to adverse personnel actions, including termination in some instances, after they announced their pregnancies. According to the complaint, these adverse personnel actions were in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII is a federal statute that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion. The statute explicitly prohibits employers from discriminating against female employees due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.
The suit, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleges that, starting in 2009, the principal at Scammon subjected female teachers to lower performance evaluations, discipline, threatened termination and/or termination because of their pregnancies. The complaint further alleges that the board approved the firing of six recently pregnant teachers employed at Scammon and forced two other recently pregnant teachers to leave Scammon. The department’s complaint seeks a court order that would require the board to develop and implement policies that would prevent its employees from being subjected to discrimination due to their pregnancies. The relief sought also includes monetary damages as compensation for those teachers who were harmed by the alleged discrimination.
Two teachers who had been pregnant while working at Scammon filed charges of sex discrimination with the Chicago District Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC investigated the charges and determined that there was reasonable cause to believe discrimination occurred against the two charging parties as well as against other pregnant teachers. The EEOC was unsuccessful in its attempts to conciliate the matter before referring it to the Department of Justice.
“No woman should have to make a choice between her job and having a family,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta for the Civil Rights Division. “Federal law requires employers to maintain a workplace free of discrimination on the basis of sex.”
“Despite much progress, we continue to see the persistence of overt pregnancy discrimination, as well as the emergence of more subtle discriminatory practices in the workplace,” said EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang.
“The EEOC will continue to vigorously enforce Title VII’s prohibition of discrimination against pregnant employees,” said John P. Rowe, former District Director of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office. Rowe led the EEOC’s administrative investigation of the charges filed by the two teachers.
This lawsuit is brought by the Department of Justice as a result of a joint effort to enhance collaboration between the EEOC and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division for vigorous enforcement of Title VII.
More information about Title VII and other federal employment laws is available on the website of the Employment Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division (www.justice.gov/crt/about/emp/).
The continued enforcement of Title VII has been a priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information on the Civil Rights Division’s work is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt/. Pregnancy discrimination, in particular, has been identified by the EEOC as a strategic enforcement priority, and earlier this year, the agency issued updated guidance, which is available at www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/pregnancy_guidance.cfm