ACLU settles with Village of Frankfort on behalf of Officer Jennifer Panattoni, whose lawsuit alleged a pattern of discrimination and retaliation during two pregnancies 

A long-time police officer’s bravery after experiencing pregnancy discrimination has led to a settlement and new policies governing how the Frankfort Police Department treats pregnant employees on the job. 

The settlement arises from the Department’s treatment of Officer Jennifer Panattoni, who has served 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 assigned to work full-time patrol shifts. The ACLU of Illinois and ACLU Women’s Rights Project sued on behalf of Jennifer Panattoni in September 2017 and filed an amended complaint in federal district court on September 2018. Officer Panattoni is also represented in her lawsuit by Kirkland & Ellis LLP. 

The Village of Frankfort has agreed to pay $190,000 to Officer Panattoni and her attorneys as part of this settlement. The agreement also requires the Village to adopt changes to its policies, procedures, and training to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who are pregnant or recovering from childbirth.  In addition, the Village has agreed to reschedule Officer Panattoni for the training classes that she was unable to attend due to being placed on leave during her first pregnancy.

“I am proud that we have been able to drive these important changes at my department. Throughout two pregnancies, my goal was to keep working and serving my community. I sought the same types of reasonable accommodations – like light duty and properly fitting uniforms and protective gear – that were granted to other officers who needed accommodations. No pregnant employee should be forced off the job when other reasonable accommodations are available,” said Officer Jennifer Panattoni. 

Officer Panattoni’s amended complaint alleges that when she first became pregnant in late 2015 and sought to keep working, the Frankfort Police Department refused to provide her properly fitting uniforms and protective gear and ultimately forced her off the payroll and onto involuntary leave. The complaint alleges that this pattern of discriminatory and retaliatory treatment continued through Officer Panattoni’s second pregnancy in early 2018, and that she was again forced on leave when the FPD refused to modify her duties to allow her to work safely through her pregnancy – unless she accepted an approximately 50 percent pay cut. 

The Village has agreed to make significant policy changes at the Frankfort Police Department as part of the settlement. Under the new policies, FPD must treat pregnant officers the same as officers injured on the job when it comes to granting accommodations like modified-duty assignments. FPD must maintain a “task bank” of non-patrol projects to help accommodate pregnant or injured officers who need less strenuous or hazardous work. And FPD will pay pregnant officers the same rates as officers injured on the job when they are accommodated with modified-duty work. Finally, FPD will create forms, trainings and procedures to ensure these policies can be implemented appropriately. 

“We look forward to seeing the new policies and trainings be implemented at the Department so that pregnant officers can get the equal treatment they deserve. We hope this situation serves as an example for other police departments and employers across our state and country to do the same,” said Amy Meek, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Illinois. 

For more information on the lawsuit, please click here.