Chicago Board of Education Sued Over Pregnancy Discrimination

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The Chicago Board of Education has been sued by the U.S Justice Department after allegations that Scammon Elementary School Principal Mary T. Weaver subjected pregnant teachers to discrimination.

Weaver was reported to have given low performance evaluations to female teachers, threatened firing and fired others after they got pregnant. The allegations spanned from 2009 to 2011, during which time she had fired six recently pregnant teachers at Scammon and forced two others to leave the school.

Her alleged actions were in violation of the Civil Rights act, which states that it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against female employees due to pregnancy and childbirth. The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court, claimed that she expressed “a regular, purposeful and less-favorable treatment of teachers because of their sex (pregnancies)”.

The lawsuit was filed by Jane Bushue and Jennifer Morris, two teachers who were pregnant while employed at Scammon, under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with reasonable cause.

The Federal agency demands the judicial implementation of policies to cut off discrimination against pregnant teachers, and also seeks compensation for the teachers subjected to her discrimination, write Kim Janssen and Lauren FitzPatrick of Chicago Sun-Times.

According to the suit, Weaver reportedly answered to a teacher’s announcement of her pregnancy by saying, “I can’t believe you are doing this to me, you are going to be out right before (mandatory) testing,” and asking another teacher who was nursing (expressing breast milk), “That isn’t over yet? When will you be done with that?”, writes Mary Wisniewski of Yahoo! News.

Upon referring the case to the Department of Justice, the government has informed the district
that it would be filing a complaint over a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bans employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin, writes Juan Perez Jr. of Chicago Tribune.

Vanita Gupta, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division, released a statement on the incident.

“No woman should have to make a choice between her job and having a family. Federal law requires employers to maintain a workplace free of discrimination on the basis of sex.”

CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey released a statement saying that CPS will fight the lawsuit.

“Chicago Public Schools is strongly committed to creating a workplace that values and respects all employees and will not tolerate the kind of discrimination or retaliation that is alleged to have taken place at Scammon Elementary school. Chicago Public Schools intends to defend against the suit and stands behind its commitment to its Comprehensive Non-Discrimination Policy and to the fair treatment of pregnant employees.”

Weaver, who won a Chicago Public Schools principal achievement award last year, received criticism from Chicago Teachers Union acting president Jesse Sharkey who argued that there were several complaints against Weaver.

“Not only do they leave this principal in place, but they actually reward this principal. This is a principal who received an honor of being an outstanding principal only a year ago.”