WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Justice announced today that it has reached a settlement with the Chicago Board of Education, which oversees the third largest school district in the United States, to resolve allegations that the board discriminated against pregnant teachers in violation of federal law.
The civil lawsuit, filed on Dec. 23, 2014, in federal district court in Chicago, alleged that the board engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against pregnant teachers employed at Scammon Elementary School by subjecting them to terminations because of their pregnancies. The board’s actions violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to the department’s complaint. Title VII is a federal statute that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion. Federal law explicitly prohibits employers from discriminating against female employees due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.
“Today, the Chicago Board of Education takes an important step toward ensuring that no woman loses her job, faces discipline or endures threats because of her pregnancy,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division. “Our settlement establishes critical measures to provide a workplace environment free from sex-based discrimination.”
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, which must be approved by the district court, the board must change its personnel policies to guard employees against discrimination on the basis of sex and pregnancy; establish training requirements for supervisors and staff that reinforce its commitment to providing a workplace environment free of sex-based discrimination; and pay $280,000 in back pay and compensatory damages to eight women harmed by the practices challenged by the department.
The department brought this lawsuit as a result of a joint effort to enhance collaboration between the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department’s Civil Rights Division for vigorous enforcement of Title VII. “Stronger policies and training to prevent pregnancy discrimination are critical to the economic security of women and their families,” said Chair Jenny R. Yang of EEOC. “Firing a woman because she is pregnant is simply against the law and EEOC remains committed to vigorous enforcement of the law.”
The Chicago District Office of EEOC investigated charges of discrimination made by Scammon teachers. After finding reasonable cause that discrimination occurred, EEOC attempted to resolve the charges before referring them to the Department of Justice for litigation.
“That a public school engaged in a pattern of firing teachers because of their pregnancies is dismaying to say the least,” said Director Julianne Bowman of EEOC’s Chicago District. “This settlement puts in place meaningful measures to eradicate the kind of antiquated thinking that resulted in the loss of these dedicated female educators from Scammon Elementary School.”