POLITICS
12/23/2014 02:02 pm ET Updated Feb 22, 2015

Federal Government Sues Chicago Schools For Pregnancy Discrimination

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(Adds comment from CPS, details from lawsuit, in paragraphs 5-8)

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO, Dec 23 (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday sued the Chicago Board of Education, alleging that it discriminated against pregnant teachers at a northwest side elementary school.

The suit, filed in federal court in the third largest U.S. city, alleges that starting in 2009, Scammon Elementary School Principal Mary Weaver subjected female teachers to lower performance evaluations, discipline, threatened firing and firing because of their pregnancies.

The suit also alleges that the board approved the firing of six recently pregnant teachers at Scammon and forced two others to leave the school.

"No woman should have to make a choice between her job and having a family," said Vanita Gupta, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's civil rights division. "Federal law requires employers to maintain a workplace free of discrimination on the basis of sex."

Weaver, who won a Chicago Public Schools principal achievement award last year, made negative comments to and about pregnant Scammon teachers, the suit said. She responded to one teacher's pregnancy announcement with "I can't believe you are doing this to me. You are going to be out right before testing," the suit said.

It said Weaver asked another teacher who was nursing and expressing breast milk: "That isn't over yet?" and "When will you be done with that?"

In a statement, CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said CPS will defend against the suit.

"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," McCaffrey said.

Chicago Teachers Union staff coordinator Jackson Potter said Weaver has a "pattern of retaliation" against teachers for union activity and standing up for their rights.

"This is symptomatic of a district-wide problem where there is not an effective way to rein in out-of-control principals," Potter said. (Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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