A motion filed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to throw out a civil lawsuit alleging discrimination against a former pregnant correctional officer was denied by a Kern County judge Monday, making way for a jury trial to begin in October.
The two parties appeared for a hearing on cross-motions for summary judgment, said Peter Arnold, the attorney representing the former officer. CDCR asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed, while Arnold asked the court to establish liability as a matter of law so the trial would only cover damages due to the officer, he said.
The lawsuit alleges CDCR discriminated against Sarah Coogle, who formerly worked for a Kern County facility, and failed to accommodate her condition. She is suing for an amount of damages, including lost and overtime wages, that would be determined at the trial.
Coogle asked for reasonable accommodation of alternate work while she was pregnant, due to concerns that she may be forced to use physical force in a confrontation or struggle, which could potentially harm her unborn baby. Coogle’s return to work coordinator said Coogle could stay in her current position and work until five weeks before her due date, accept a demotion that would result in less pay and loss of benefits, or take leave, according to the lawsuit.
Because Coogle couldn’t afford to go on leave or lose benefits, she stayed in her current position.
According to the lawsuit, in February 2017, Coogle, then seven months pregnant, was running to intervene in an inmate fight when she fell. A few days before her due date, she lost her baby from a placental rupture, commonly caused by trauma like the fall she suffered, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges CDCR’s actions and failure to accommodate Coogle’s pregnancy were “callous and outrageous,” adding that “no man has to make the choice offered to (Coogle) of choosing between family and career. No man has to give up his pay to ensure the safety of his children.”
A mandatory settlement conference is scheduled between the two parties Friday.