Long-Standing Policy May Have Affected Many Other Women
Legal Momentum has filed a charge with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the City of New York on behalf of New York City Police Officer Akema Thompson alleging pregnancy discrimination. In 2013, Officer Thompson was unfairly denied an opportunity for promotion to sergeant when the city refused to re-schedule a promotional examination that she missed because she was in the hospital recovering from the birth of her baby.
New York City’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) routinely refuses to reschedule employment and promotional examinations when a conflict arises due to pregnancy or childbirth. However, DCAS’s written policy does allow for exams to be rescheduled for many other conflicts: religious observances, military duty, court appearances, funerals, and injuries occurring on the job. “The City has the ability to, and in fact does, offer alternate test dates for many reasons. That DCAS would not do so for pregnancy or childbirth is stunning and in violation of federal, state and city law,” says Legal Momentum’s Litigation Director Michelle Caiola.
In early 2013, Officer Thompson learned that the NYPD would be offering the promotional examination for the rank of Sergeant. This exam is only offered every few years or more, so she immediately signed up to take it and took a months-long class in preparation. Then she found out the exam was to take place on October 19—the due date of her first baby.
Officer Thompson contacted the city over the summer and fall and requested permission to take the exam on an alternate date. Despite numerous e-mails, phone calls, and letters by Officer Thompson, and by the Policemen’s Benevolent Association on her behalf, DCAS refused to re-schedule. PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said “all PBA members deserve a fair opportunity to advance their careers. It is simply unacceptable that the City is unwilling to make a reasonable accommodation for Police Officer Thompson and other pregnant police officers, as it does for those who have other unavoidable conflicts. Our members should not have to sacrifice their careers for their decision to start a family.”
Just days before the exam date, a DCAS representative called Officer Thompson to say they were willing to provide her two additional hours to complete the test and a cushion to sit on while taking it. Ironically, Officer Thompson took that call on her cell phone while in labor at the hospital. “I definitely did not need this conflict while preparing for the birth of my first child,” says Officer Thompson. “The added worry and frustration were not good for me or for my baby.”
The full text of Officer Thompson’s EEOC charge can be accessed here.
About Legal Momentum
Legal Momentum is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1970 to advance the rights of women by using the power of the law and creating innovative public policy in three broad areas: economic justice, freedom from gender-based violence and equality under the law. For more information visit www.legalmomentum.org.