State Judge or­ders Cal­i­for­nia prisons to lighten load for preg­nant PG of­fi­cers

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - News - BY ADAM ASH­TON aash­[email protected]

A judge on Fri­day or­dered Cal­i­for­nia prisons to make light-duty as­sign­ments avail­able to six cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers who sued the state af­ter they were de­nied com­mon ac­com­mo­da­tions while they were preg­nant.

The tem­po­rary in­junc­tion in the class ac­tion law­suit ap­plies only to the six women who filed the case in Los An­ge­les Su­pe­rior Court. A hear­ing is sched­uled in De­cem­ber that could ex­pand the or­der to all fe­male guards at the Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tions and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

The women who filed the case are “very happy,” said their at­tor­ney, Arnold Peter.

The cor­rec­tions depart­ment un­til 2015 al­lowed preg­nant of­fi­cers to work light-duty as­sign­ments, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

That changed for rea­sons the depart­ment has not ex­plained, com­pelling preg­nant em­ploy­ees to ei­ther take a leave, con­tinue work­ing in phys­i­cally de­mand­ing jobs that could risk their ba­bies’ health or trans­fer to a dif­fer­ent po­si­tion with po­ten­tially lower pay and ben­e­fits.

“Th­ese six fe­male cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers bravely chose to chal­lenge a pol­icy that is not only il­le­gal, it is heart­less and dan­ger­ous, threat­en­ing the safety of both the staff and in­mates through­out Cal­i­for­nia’s prison sys­tem,” Peter said in a writ­ten state­ment. “Each of them de­serves our grat­i­tude for their courage to step for­ward and speak out against an in­equitable pol­icy.”

The women he’s rep­re­sent­ing work at Cen­tinela State Prison, Kern Val­ley State Prison and Cal­i­for­nia Med­i­cal Fa­cil­ity. One of them, Raquel Chanelo, has worked for state prisons since 2002.

Peter said one of the women is preg­nant. The rul­ing from Judge Elihu Berle di­rects the state to give the oth­ers light-duty as­sign­ments if they be­come preg­nant.

At least two other women have sued the cor­rec­tions depart­ment over the pol­icy. One of them was Sarah Coogle, whose baby was still born in 2017. The birth fol­lowed an in­ci­dent in which Coogle fell at work dur­ing the sev­enth month of her pregnancy, she told The Sacra­mento Bee in April.

The cor­rec­tions depart­ment de­clined to com­ment on the judge’s rul­ing.

The depart­ment “takes this is­sue se­ri­ously and is eval­u­at­ing its cur­rent poli­cies and pro­ce­dures,” depart­ment spokes­woman Terry Thorn­ton said.

IN­JUNC­TION IN CLASS-AC­TION LAW­SUIT AP­PLIES ONLY TO 6 WOMEN

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