July 2016

Pregnant employees at the Department of Homeland Security have allegedly faced discrimination for years, prompting a lawsuit filed by a group of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers. This group was recently certified to bring their case as a class action.

Current and former employees of the CBP’s Office of Field Operations have been affected by the alleged discrimination. After taking the case to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an administrative judge ruled on April 21, 2023, that any pregnant employee required to enter “temporary light duty” (TLD) since July 2016 would be eligible to join the class action.

According to the agency’s policies and the protections provided by the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, light duty status and accommodations should only be provided at the pregnant employee’s request. Instead, employees report that as soon as their pregnancies were disclosed, supervisors placed them on TLD. This change in duties reportedly affected benefits, including training eligibility, promotional opportunities, overtime pay, the ability to obtain preferred work schedules, and the right to carry a firearm.

Roberta Gabaldon, a CBP employee, stated, “As soon as I let my supervisor know I was pregnant, I was immediately sent home and then put on light duty. There was no conversation about my ability; it was just assumed. It seemed that the agency believed that my pregnancy would impede my competency.”

In an attempt to counter the case, CBP argued that there was a lack of “commonality” among the employees’ complaints, adding that the complaints only stemmed from a handful of offices. They also argued that if mandatory TLD occurred, it was due to supervisors acting without proper authority rather than following agency policy.

Ultimately, Kevin Rung, an EEOC administrative judge, found the over two dozen testimonies—which came from 11 of the 20 CBP field offices—consistent enough to certify the class. It is estimated that since July 2016, at least 500 pregnant women were placed on TLD.

Hundreds of current and former employees are now eligible to join the case through the Gilbert Employment Law Firm’s website

Pregnant Employees at Customs and Border Protection Regularly Discriminated Against, Class Action Lawsuit Alleges. (2023, May 1). Government Executive. https://www.govexec.com/workforce/2023/05/pregnant-employees-customs-and-border-protection-regularly-discriminated-against-class-action-lawsuit-alleges/385817/

Sector(s): CBP

Agency(ies): CBP, DHS

Event Type(s): Civil Liberties or Privacy Infringement

Accountability Status: Lawsuit or Claim Filed

Victim Classification: DHS Employee, Female, Pregnancy