Suburban Police Department Refused to Accommodate Officer's Pregnancy: Suit

Over the past 14 years, jennifer panattoni has worked her way up to senior patrol officer with the Frankfort Police Department.

"I have wanted to be a police officer since I was a kid," she said.

But when she was pregnant with her son Nathan, she says the job she loved became a nightmare--when the department refused to do anything to accommodate her pregnancy.

"He told me if my doctor recommended anything that interfered with my current job on patrol, that he would not make any accommodations and I had to go home," she said of the police chief.

Pannetoni, whose husband is a sergeant with the same department, struggled with her changing body and the unchanging demands that come with wearing a police uniform.

The buttons were popping open towards the bottom," she recalled. "My bullet-proof vest, the same vest that I had when I was much lighter, was now not covering my stomach completely"

At five months she went back to her chief.

"I could feel my son kicking at that point and I became very much 'do I want to continue working to earn for my family, or do I hold my safety and my son’s safety in higher regard?'" She said. "You know my son’s safety came first."

But rather than take her off the street or offer her lighter duty, the department placed Panattoni on unpaid leave.

"I was devastated. I felt betrayed. I love my job," she said. "I love the police department and I guess I was in shock."

Now, a little more than a year after giving birth, Panattoni is filing a federal lawsuit against the Frankfort police.

"The law is also very clear that an employer cannot place a pregnant employee on leave just because they are pregnant or just because they asked for accommodations," said Amy Meek with the American Civil Liberties Union.

The village of Frankfort says it is not its policy to comment on pending litigation. But in this case, a spokesperson says, the village has complied with all applicable federal and state laws.

But Panattoni is hoping her suit will force changes in department policy.

"I would hope they would adopt new policies and family friendly changes that would prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future," she said.

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