A seven-year officer of the Los Angeles Airport Police who returned from maternity leave early this year has filed a lawsuit against the city and police department officials alleging she was discriminated against after refusing to shoot at an indoor range while breastfeeding.
In the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court May 26th, Airport Police officer Shawna Smith, a field training officer at Los Angeles International Airport, claims that she was abruptly reassigned to work the front desk, an assignment typically given to those on light duty or who are unable to perform their job.
Smith had returned from maternity leave in January but in March, she was transferred to the front desk, having been told that she had not qualified at the department’s indoor shooting range for some time, according to the lawsuit. But Smith said she presented a doctor’s note to department officials advising that while breastfeeding, she should not fire at a range in a confined space due to the presence of lead.
Smith then asked to qualify at an outdoor range, similar to other officers, but was denied the option and assigned to the front desk duty, the lawsuit states.
The airport officer is seeking damages and injunctive relief in the lawsuit, claiming that she has experienced significant harm, including loss of pay and potential promotion, as a result of the reassignment. The complaint alleges pregnancy and gender discrimination, failure to prevent that discrimination, failure to make pregnancy and gender-related job accommodations and failure to engage in accommodation discussions.
“It’s the only mechanism we have to force the city to do the right thing and to make accommodations,” said Mike McGill, the attorney representing Smith. “The lawsuit can be settled by allowing her to qualify at an outdoor range, which (the department) does for other officers.”
McGill said police department officials have not responded to the request to allow Smith to qualify at the outdoor range in order to return to patrol assignment.
Airport Police spokesman Sgt. Jim Holcomb said the police department can not comment on pending litigation.
Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association President Marshall McClain called the case disturbing, saying the police department could provide a “simple fix” by enabling Smith to qualify at the outdoor range.
“They’ve had plenty of time to rectify the situation,” McClain said.
McClain noted that Smith is too important an asset to be assigned to desk duty, saying she is a well-respected officer who is physically fit and very active.
“She’s not someone who’s looking for a desk,” he said.
McClain added that the airport police union is hoping for a quick resolution to the case to allow Smith to return to her position on patrol.
“The airport needs good officers keeping the traveling public safe, and our agency, like many others, is already short-staffed so losing a training officer is especially detrimental,” the police union president said.