DETROIT – Five Detroit police officers are suing the city, saying they were forced to go on sick leave when their bosses learned they were pregnant, even if they could perform other duties.
The officers, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, said they're challenging a 2004 policy that prevents them from working unless a doctor finds they can crawl in confined spaces, jump from an elevated surface and forcibly make arrests.
The "shocking policy" violates federal law and the U.S. Constitution, the women's lawyers said in a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in Detroit.
The policy "places incredible financial burden on these women, including forcing some to rely on Medicaid in order to obtain health insurance and to use food stamps to support themselves," the lawsuit says.
Officers are forced to "choose between serving the city and having children," the lawsuit says.
A Detroit police spokesman, however, said the department's hands are tied by an arbitrator's ruling in 2004.
The union representing officers complained that men who were hurt off the job were being treated differently than women who became pregnant, spokesman James Tate said.
"Both ended up with their conditions while off duty," he said. "The arbitrator sided with the union and said there should be no special consideration given to pregnant officers.
"The department wants pregnant officers to work. It was never an issue until the union's grievance," Tate said.
The five female officers joined the department between 1995 and 2001. The lawsuit says they were stuck at home without pay after exhausting their sick leave.
Angelica Robinson said she was placed on leave earlier this year, although she worked at a desk. She wanted to stay on the job until late August but was sent home in March and subsequently used 500 hours of sick time.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified financial damages and restoration of seniority.
The Michigan Senate is considering a bill to prohibit treating a pregnant woman at work differently than any other person similar in ability. It cleared the state House last month, 105-2.
The House Fiscal Agency says it's already illegal to discriminate against employees based on pregnancy.
In Los Angeles, a pregnant officer is placed on administrative detail if she's unable to perform her duties elsewhere, Officer Anna Aguirre said.
All employees are placed on unpaid leave if they are unable to work and don't have any sick days available, she said.
In Chicago, the work assigned to a pregnant officer depends on the recommendation of a doctor, Sgt. Antoinette Ursitti said.
An officer not fit for full duty is given limited duty, she said.