ACLU files discrimination suit on behalf of pregnant dockworkers 

The ACLU today sued a nonprofit that represents shippers and a dockworkers union for allegedly failing to provide accommodations for pregnant port workers and maintaining a discriminatory promotion system at the Long Beach and Los Angeles seaports.

The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit names as defendants the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents employers at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, as well as the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 13, which represents longshoremen at West Coast ports.

The suit was filed on behalf of Endanicha Bragg, Tracy Plummer and Marisol Romero, who are current non-union dockworkers seeking full-time jobs and union membership.

The lawsuit alleges the PMA and the ILWU violated the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, the California Pregnancy Disability Leave Law, the California Family Rights Act and the state Unfair Competition Law.

The amount of time that casual dockworkers have to accumulate to move up to full-time positions and union membership in some cases is more than 7,000 hours, a challenging goal because work opportunities can be highly irregular for non-full-time workers, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

Workers who are pregnant are more vulnerable to falling behind in accumulating hours and if they refuse an assignment potentially hazardous to a pregnancy, they not only lose hours and pay, but will not have the chance to work again until their assigned work code comes up in rotation, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

Although clerical work and other jobs exist at the ports, the unions failed to provide pregnant casual workers with those assignments, despite state law that prohibits employers from refusing to provide reasonable accommodation for an employee for a condition related to pregnancy, the suit alleges.

The complaint also alleges that the unions refused to provide minimum lactation accommodations required by the state Labor Code for workers who want to breastfeed when they return to work after giving birth.

“Women make up 40% of the casual workforce at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, but you wouldn’t know it from the policies of the PMA, ILWU and Local 13,” said Gillian Thomas, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project.

The plaintiffs are seeking 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.

Representatives of the PMA and ILWU Local 13 could not be immediately reached for comment.

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