The employees all worked at Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Field Operations at the time of the alleged discrimination.

The employees all worked at Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Field Operations at the time of the alleged discrimination. Mani Albrecht / U.S. Customs and Border Protection file photo

Pregnant Employees at Customs and Border Protection Regularly Discriminated Against, Class Action Lawsuit Alleges

Hundreds of current and former employees are now eligible to join the case, as women say the "agency believed that my pregnancy would impede my competency."

The Homeland Security Department has allegedly discriminated against certain pregnant women for years by forcing them to forfeit some of their duties, according to a lawsuit filed by a group of employees who were recently certified to bring their case as a class action. 

The employees all worked at Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Field Operations at the time of the alleged discrimination. They brought their case before a field office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which found in a recent ruling that any pregnant employee required to enter “temporary light duty,” or TLD, since July 2016 would be eligible to join the class. 

According to agency policy and protections afforded by the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, pregnant employees should only enter light duty status if they request it. Instead, the complainants said, their supervisors required them to surrender some duties as soon as their pregnancies were disclosed. They said temporary light duty status offers fewer chances for overtime and other differential pay, lowers the chances of promotions, allows for fewer training opportunities, makes preferred schedules more difficult to earn and requires the surrendering of their right to carry a firearm. In some cases, they added, employees then have to requalify to carry their gun. 

Pregnant employees were treated differently than others who went onto the temporary status, they said, as they were never provided an opportunity to prove they could still carry out their normal duties. 

“As soon as I let my supervisor know I was pregnant, I was immediately sent home and then put on light duty,” said Roberta Gabaldon, a CBP employee and a class agent who helped bring the case. “There was no conversation about my ability, it was just assumed. It seemed that the agency believed that my pregnancy would impede my competency.” 

CBP countered that the complainants lacked “commonality” that is required for a class-action case. If mandatory TLD occurred, it went against agency policy and was required only because supervisors were acting without proper authority, the agency argued. There is no “overriding agency policy or practice” of discrimination, CBP said, adding that the complaints stemmed only from a handful of offices. Additionally, the agency contended the employees bringing the case did not meet the “numerosity” threshold because only 23 individuals delivered sworn testimony that they were forced onto the light duty status. 

CBP conceded that if employees were forced to surrender duties solely because they were pregnant, it would violate anti-discrimination laws. The complainants said CBP’s policy does not specifically preclude involuntary TLD for pregnant workers and the agency failed to properly train its supervisors on its implementation.

Kevin Rung, an EEOC administrative judge, noted a review of CBP data found more than 500 pregnant women were placed on TLD since July 2016. The complainants were not yet responsible for proving all of them were discriminated against and the roughly two-dozen sworn testimonies—which came from 11 of CBP’s 20 field offices—were sufficient to certify the class.

“The class agents have submitted sufficient probative evidence that the agency subjected pregnant employees to a policy that distinguished pregnancy from other short-term impairments and involuntarily placed them on TLD because they were pregnant without regard to whether they can continue to perform the essential duties of their positions of record,” Rung said. He added a class case was “the most efficient and equitable method of adjudicating claims of this size.”

CBP, which did not respond to a request for comment, must in the next 30 days “use all reasonable means” to contact all potential class members to inform them of the class’ certification, the EEOC judge ordered. That should include emailing, hand delivery of a notice or mailing a notice to their last known address. 

“Our clients endured what is all too common in the workplace: faulty assumptions that a pregnant employee can't carry out their job duties,” said Cori Cohen, a partner at Gilbert Employment Law who is representing the class. “Through this lawsuit, we seek to hold the agency accountable for its failures to provide these women with the opportunities and protections required by law.”

She added the class certification “brings us one step closer to justice.”

Gabaldon said she hoped the case would cause CBP to change its policy. 

“I am grateful that our voices are being heard, and hopeful that this suit will help bring an end to pregnancy discrimination at CBP,” she said. 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.