EEOC Finds Bridge And Tunnel Authority Action Towards Pregnant Employees Violates Federal Discrimination Law

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March 28, 2012

New York, NY - The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") has issued an important Determination regarding sex and pregnancy discrimination by finding that the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority ("TBTA") wrongfully reassigned Officer Lori Ann DiPalo to low-status duties rather than allowing her to return to her regular job after she informed them she was pregnant. Ms. DiPalo is represented by Legal Momentum, the women's legal defense and education fund.

The EEOC found that the TBTA reassigned Ms. DiPalo, a six-year veteran of the agency with a stellar employment record, solely due to her pregnancy status rather than any legitimate individual assessment. The EEOC also said that the TBTA treated another female officer similarly to Ms. DiPalo after that officer disclosed her pregnancy to the TBTA.

“Employers should be on notice that pregnancy discrimination has been receiving increased attention with invigorated efforts to stamp out policies and actions that place working women at disadvantages,” said Silda Palerm, Executive Vice President and Legal Director of Legal Momentum.

Ms. DiPalo’s job function previous to her reassignment was working security on the midnight shift. Ms. DiPalo had taken a two-week leave from her job due to conditions associated with her pregnancy. Ms. DiPalo’s physician then cleared her to return to full duty with no restrictions. However, upon her return, the TBTA’s physician immediately decided—without a medical exam—that Ms. DiPalo was “unfit for duty” because of alleged “risk of abdominal trauma.” Ms. DiPalo was then directed to surrender her firearm, and assigned to work toll collection.

“This ruling is a victory for Ms. DiPalo, and the many other working women who attempt to balance maintaining a healthy pregnancy with earning a much-needed paycheck,” said Michelle Caiola, Senior Counsel at Legal Momentum and counsel for Ms. DiPalo. “The decision sends a message to employers, large and small, that women cannot arbitrarily be removed from duties or forced onto leave just because they are pregnant. Such determinations must be individualized and based on fact rather than on stereotypes and pre-conceived notions of pregnancy.”

The EEOC will now try to resolve the case with the TBTA.

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.