A bill authored by Assemblyman Rudy Salas that will provide reasonable working accommodations for all pregnant correctional officers passed the Assembly Committee on Public Employment and Retirement Tuesday.
Assembly Bill 1906 will require the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to provide light-duty accommodations to all pregnant correctional officers, removing the possibility that correctional officers will face the decision in the future to continue working in a job that could risk their babies’ health, take a demotion or take a leave absence — further providing protections to end gender discrimination against pregnant correctional officers in the workplace.
Salas, D-Bakersfield, introduced the legislation after Sarah Coogle, a former correctional officer at the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi, sued the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, alleging that she was denied the opportunity to take a light-duty assignment while pregnant. Coogle, at seven months pregnant, fell while responding to a fight between two inmates, which led to the loss of her child.
Until 2015, CDCR allowed pregnant officers to work light-duty assignments.
“The practice of denying working accommodations to pregnant correctional officers is appalling, discriminatory and unacceptable,” said Salas in a news release. “I am pleased to see the Legislature move one step closer to ending this senseless practice and creating an equal working environment for all correctional officers.”
After being denied reasonable accommodations for work while she was pregnant, CDCR informed the correctional officer that she “could stay in her current position and work until five weeks before her due date, accept a demotion that would result in less pay and loss of benefits, or take leave. Because the correctional officer couldn’t afford to go on leave, she stayed in her current position," according to a Salas news release.
A Kern County Superior Court judge ruled in Coogle’s favor. A class action lawsuit has also been filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of six women who were denied common accommodations while they were pregnant. A judge has issued a temporary injunction that makes light-duty assignments available to the six women who sued the state.
AB 1906 will be heard next in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.