September 27, 2018

Officer Jennifer Panattoni again subjected to discrimination and retaliation, forced off payroll due to pregnancy


During her second pregnancy, a police officer at the Village of Frankfort - with more than 15 years of service - has again been subjected to discrimination and retaliation. The ACLU of Illinois sued on behalf of Jennifer Panattoni in September 2017 and recently filed an amended complaint in federal district court in Chicago. Officer Panattoni is also represented in her lawsuit by Kirkland & Ellis LLP.

Officer Jennifer Panattoni has served the Frankfort Police Department (FPD) and her community with distinction for more than 15 years. She is an award-winning senior patrol officer, one of the only female officers in the department and the only woman who currently works full-time patrol shifts. When Officer Panattoni became pregnant in late 2015 and sought to keep working, the Frankfort Police Department refused to provide her uniforms and protective gear and forced her off the payroll and onto involuntary leave.
When Officer Panattoni became pregnant with her second child and informed her department in early 2018, the Village of Frankfort continued its pattern of discrimination and retaliation against her. The FPD refused to modify her duties (such as taking walk-in complaints, conducting witness interviews, and performing other available work at the station) to allow her to work safely through her pregnancy – unless she accepted an approximately 50 percent pay cut. Male officers who needed similar job modifications due to injury have not been forced to take a pay cut. 
The FPD also refused to provide Officer Panattoni the properly-sized uniforms and body armor she needed to patrol safely, even though the department demanded that she still be available to perform all enforcement duties. After Officer Panattoni submitted photos and documentation to show that the body armor the FPD gave her did not fit or adequately protect her, the FPD demanded a humiliating in-person demonstration where she had to describe her breasts and weight gain to her supervisor. The FPD continued to schedule Officer Panattoni for patrol shifts even though she had no adequately protective body armor, forcing her to stay home and draw on her benefit time instead of working.
In May 2018, the FPD again forced Officer Panattoni off the job and onto leave because she was pregnant, forcing her to exhaust her paid benefit time and draw on her disability pension at half the amount of her usual pay.
“It’s shocking to experience the exact same discriminatory treatment all over again. Yet again, I’ve been forced to choose between a job I love and carrying my pregnancy safely to term. They accommodate other officers who need temporary modified duties, but because I am pregnant, I have been forced off the job. It’s very sad that my Department doesn’t respect pregnant officers enough to treat me like any other police officer,” said Jennifer Panattoni.
“Instead of working towards reasonable accommodations to allow Officer Panattoni to work safely during her pregnancy, the Village of Frankfort has doubled down in defending its pattern of discriminatory treatment. Without policies to accommodate pregnant employees, it’s all too easy to continue treating them unequally,” said Amy Meek, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Illinois.
For more information on the lawsuit, please click here.