A former pregnant correctional officer at California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi was awarded $1.7 million in damages stemming from a lawsuit filed against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in April 2018.
Sarah Coogle, who claimed she was not accommodated for and lost her baby while working at CDCR, will be receiving $1.42 million for the civil matter. She'll receive an additional $280,000 for workers' compensation, the settlement said. Coogle also has to immediately submit a written resignation of her employment to the CDCR.
Arnold Peter, Coogle's attorney, said he's happy the case is resolved and noted Coogle is now five months pregnant.
"She can focus on the health of the baby and a successful pregnancy and delivery," Peter said.
Peter said the CDCR has made it clear policies that allowed for possible gender discrimination to occur will be changed.
"We hope that both lawsuits can shed light on some of the problems with the current policy, and that the new policy will positively address the issues we’ve raised," Peter said.
Neither the CDCR nor its attorney, Catherine Flores, immediately responded for comment Thursday.
Coogle was also not immediately available for comment.
According to the complaint filed in Kern County Superior Court, Coogle asked for reasonable accommodation of alternate work while she was pregnant, due to concerns that she might be forced to use physical force in a confrontation or struggle and could potentially harm her unborn baby.
Coogle's return to work coordinator, Vicky Harp, said Coogle 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 Coogle couldn't afford to go on leave, she stayed in her current position.
According to the lawsuit, in February 2017, Coogle, then seven months pregnant, was running to intervene in an inmate fight when she fell. A few days before her due date, she lost her baby from a placental rupture, commonly caused by trauma from the fall she suffered, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleged CDCR's actions and failure to accommodate Coogle's pregnancy were "callous and outrageous," adding that "no man has to make the choice offered to (Coogle) of choosing between family and career. No man has to give up his pay to ensure the safety of his children."
A jury trial was expected to begin in October.
A class action lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles County alleging gender discrimination on behalf of CDCR, in which female correctional officers allege they were not given reasonable accommodations during and after their pregnancies.
One of the plaintiffs in the case was a correctional officer at Kern Valley State Prison who alleges she was not given reasonable accommodations during her pregnancies in 2015 and 2018.