NY Corrections Dept. Settles Maternity Benefits Case for Almost $1M

May 23, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced it has reached a settlement with the New York State Department of Correctional Services on charges that it provided inferior benefits to employees on maternity leave.

Under the court-approved order, the Corrections Department will provide $972,000 in compensatory damages, liquidated damages, back pay, and interest to 23 female Corrections employees. The order also contains a provision whereby the court may issue monetary relief to additional victims who are identified following the settlement, the EEOC announcement said.

The EEOC suit, filed under the Equal Pay Act of 1963, charged that while the Corrections Department gave both male and female employees with work-related injuries up to six months of paid workers’ compensation leave, pregnant female employees on such leave were involuntarily switched to maternity leave at or around the time they gave birth. The EEOC charged that switching women from workers’ compensation leave to maternity leave resulted in lesser benefits for those women due to their sex and thus violated the Equal Pay Act (EPA).

According to the announcement, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York joined the lawsuit by adding claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, saying the practice was an act of discrimination on the basis of gender. The U.S. Attorney’s Office alleged that the discrimination occurred when Corrections transferred pregnant employees from workers’ compensation leave and benefits without making a determination whether, on an individual basis, the employee continues to be eligible for workers’ compensation leave and benefits.

The settlement order also amended the Department’s workers’ compensation directive to provide that no female Corrections officer shall be removed from workers’ compensation benefits due to pregnancy or the birth of a child.

The EEOC announcement is here .