At the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, pregnant dockworkers who are not yet union members are routinely denied access to job assignments that would allow them to keep working safely. But if they don't work, they stop earning seniority, which is the only route to the coveted full-time jobs and union membership.
The discrimination they suffer is not only unfair, it's also unlawful.
The American Civil Liberties Union Women's Rights Project, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California, and Feigen Law Group filed a lawsuit against the Pacific Maritime Association ("PMA") as bargaining representative for the operators of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, as well as the International Longshore and Warehouse Union ("ILWU") and its Local 13, for failing to provide accommodations for pregnant workers and maintaining a discriminatory promotion system.
The suit was filed on behalf of three women who are current non-union, so-called casual dockworkers, aspiring to eventually obtain full-time jobs and union membership.
The lawsuit charges PMA and the ILWU with violating the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, the California Pregnancy Disability Leave Law, the California Family Rights Act, and the state Unfair Competition Law.
Relatively safe work assignments appropriate for pregnant people — such as clerical duties — do exist at the ports. But the defendants in the lawsuit failed to provide pregnant casual workers with these assignments, even though state law prohibits employers from refusing "to provide reasonable accommodation for an employee for a condition related to pregnancy" or from refusing to transfer a worker to a "less strenuous or hazardous position."
California law further requires that workers absent due to pregnancy disability earn seniority on the same terms as others who are absent. Indeed, PMA and the unions grant seniority to casual workers absent for military service. But they deny it to workers absent due to pregnancy.
The lawsuit also charges that the defendants refused to provide even the minimum lactation accommodations required by the California Labor Code for workers who want to breastfeed when they return to work after giving birth. The women filing today's case did not have a clean, safe place or adequate break time to pump breast milk during the workday, forcing them either to forgo work for extended periods or to give up breastfeeding their children altogether.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction requiring PMA to implement reasonable accommodations for pregnant and breastfeeding casual workers and for all defendants to change their policies that penalize pregnant workers for their absences.