Legislation introduced to provide pregnant correctional officers with light-duty options

By Jake Lee Green
Kern Valley Sun

Accommodations for female correctional officers who are pregnant may find improvements coming to their work environment thanks to a bill that has been introduced by Assemblymember Rudy Salas. Salas introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 1906 in response to a lawsuit against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations (CDCR) by a former correctional officer at the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi. The officer alleges that she was denied light-duty options while she was pregnant. During an altercation between two inmates at the facility, the female officer, who was approximately seven months pregnant at the time, attempted to deescalate the situation and subsequently fell. The fall lead to the loss of her unborn child.

The woman who filed the lawsuit against the CDCR had looked into possibilities of light-duty work, but, the correctional facility in Tehachapi had given her limited options. The CDCR informed the pregnant correctional officer that she could stay in the position she was in until five weeks before her expected due date, accept the terms of a demotion that would lead to the loss of pay and benefits attached to her position, or file for administrative leave. Due to the limited amount of options and the possibility of losing much needed pay to prepare for the aftercare of her child, the female correctional officer decided to remain in her position. When the female officer lost her unborn child she decided to sue the CDCR. The female officer was awarded damages after a Kern County Superior Court judge ruled in her favor.

CDCR would be required to provide alternative accommodations for all pregnant correctional officers if AB 1906 is passed. Light-duty accommodations would allow for pregnant correctional officers to evade difficult workplace decisions that risk the life of their unborn child or encourage demotions that lead to cuts in pay and benefits.

Up until 2015, the CDCR had allowed correctional officers options for light-duty assignments and this bill would reinstate critical protections that prevent pregnant officers from being discriminated against.

Assemblymember Salas states, “The practice of denying working accommodations to pregnant correctional officers is appalling, discriminatory, and unacceptable. This bill will ensure that this senseless practice is put to an end and will help to provide an equal opportunity working environment for all correctional officers.”