Officers Krupinski, Lucy, Prater, Robinson, Skender and Woods knew they were choosing to put themselves on the line to protect the public when they first decided to join the Detroit Police Department.
However, for the past two years they have also put themselves on the line to ensure that no other officer would be forced to choose between their career and their family.
As a result of this week’s landmark settlement agreement, we will all benefit from their sacrifice. Under DPD’s old policy, pregnant officers were forced to disclose their pregnancy to their supervisors. These officers were then immediately placed on leave irrespective of their ability to perform their job without any meaningful opportunity to apply for a modified duty assignment. Shockingly, one of our clients was already working at a desk job at the time she was forced to go on leave.
Pregnant officers had no choice but to first burn through their sick time and to then rely on family, friends and government assistance to survive. Not surprisingly, this untenable situation transformed what should have been a happy period of satisfaction and joy into a period of financial crisis and emotional stress for these families.
In 2008, this group of female officers stood up to say “enough.” It has been my great privilege to be a part of the team of attorneys that represented the six officers in their pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against the Detroit Police Department. Their courage and persistence has been inspiring. Putting aside their fear of retribution and need for privacy, these officers shared their voice, their time and their energy to change a discriminatory system that they knew was wrong. And change it they did.
Before these officers came forward, DPD’s policy was unlawful and unfair. Moreover, it was inefficient, as Detroit needlessly lost the expertise of these dedicated law enforcement officers for months at a time for no good reason. Today, our city and our state stand at the forefront of ensuring equality in the workplace for pregnant employees. I firmly believe that DPD’s new policy is one of the strongest anti-discrimination policies in the country. And under the new amendments to the Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act, Michigan’s anti-discrimination provisions now mirror the language of the federal protections. Our clients were instrumental in both of these changes. Their legal challenge brought about the former, and several of them testified in front of our legislature in favor of the latter.
It is a good day for Detroit. I am proud to say today that Detroit has become a positive example and that other departments should follow our lead. And all because our clients were willing to put themselves in the line of fire in more ways than one.
By Jessie Rossman, ACLU of Michigan staff attorney