Firefighter sues over pregnancy-related sick days

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut firefighter says in a federal civil rights lawsuit that she was unfairly disciplined by a city fire department and forced to take unpaid leave because she was pregnant.

Bridgeport firefighter Regina Scates said in her lawsuit in U.S. District Court that the department’s actions violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act.

The 37-year-old Scates alleges she was unfairly disciplined last year for taking pregnancy-related sick days and then forced to take an unpaid maternity leave, despite allowances for unlimited paid sick leave for non-pregnancy-related physical disabilities. She says she was still capable of working when she was placed on leave. She is seeking unspecified monetary damages.

Scates was placed on administrative duty after she provided the department with a doctor’s note in May 2013. The note informed the city that she should not be lifting anything over 35 pounds or working any shift longer than eight hours during the remainder of her pregnancy, according to the lawsuit.

She was then given verbal and written warnings in August after taking seven sick days, something the department termed as “excessive absences.”

“The defendant’s conduct was even more outrageous because it was fully aware that the plaintiff was pregnant and had been absent due to her pregnancy related condition,” attorney Thomas Bucci wrote in the lawsuit.

Scates, who had a December due date, says she was involuntarily removed from administrative duty and forced to take unpaid maternity leave Sept. 1, 2013. She believes she could have continued her “light-duty” work for at least two more months, her attorney wrote.

The city later changed the leave to a paid sick leave after Scates complained, according to the lawsuit.

Scates also alleges that because she was placed on maternity leave early she was forced to exhaust her federal leave under the Family and Medical Leave act before her child was born.

The city hasn’t responded to the lawsuit, filed Friday, and city attorney Mark Anastasi didn’t return a phone message left Monday seeking comment.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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