CROMWELL -- Officer Sarah Alicea was a police officer, and an expecting mother who was five months pregnant.
When she asked her chief for some light duty accommodations, she realized her police department and her town had never dealt with this before. In 1975, the Town of Cromwell hired its first police officer, and by 1983, the Cromwell Police Department was formed.
Today, they are a department of 27 police officers handling over 10,000 calls for service each year.
“So, I’m the first female police officer in Cromwell that went through this, that was pregnant," said Alicea. "So, when I was about 20 weeks, I told the chief along with the union representative that I was expecting, and I gave her a doctor’s note. That was kind of the start of it. I guess it’s just a small department and we only have three females, plus the chief so four."
Five years ago, when Sarah Alicea was hired by the Cromwell Police Department, her mother proudly pinned her badge on her. But then as Sarah planned on entering motherhood herself, as a working police officer, she was not given any light duty accommodations from the Cromwell town manager.
“The following conversation I had the next day with the town manager. It was pretty open and closed, we didn’t really have any discussion. He just said there’s no light duty, it’s not in the contract, so that was that.”
As a police officer and being five months pregnant, she had two choices, continue to work regular duty as a police officer through her pregnancy or take time off. Sarah was forced to exhaust all of her accrued time off. She eventually used all her time and then went without a paycheck.
“Well initially I was kind of shocked, I really didn’t expect that to happen. I said “well my time is going to run out.”
She (Chief Lamontagne) said, yeah, you know she kinda piped in at that point, “well your times gonna run out in the beginning of July. So they had already known that, that response meant that I was going to be unpaid. I said well that means going to be unpaid, for quite a bit a time, a couple of months at best, that’s if I come back six weeks after, assuming everything is, you know, goes according to plan, and she’s due on time you know she could be, she was late.”
Sarah took her concerns to the ACLU of Connecticut. A suit was filed with both the Federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission and the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunity.
Dan Barrett, Legal Director, ACLU said, “We are very happy that Cromwell has taken it seriously, and that they have paid Sarah and that they have restored her time, and also that they have committed to coming up with a policy addressing the needs of them pregnant employees by October 30.”
The Cromwell Police Department released the following statement:
“We are pleased to have reached an amicable resolution of this dispute with no admission of liability, which will allow the parties to avoid the time and expense associated with litigation. The Town of Cromwell is an equal opportunity employer and we have, at all times, acted in good faith and in accordance with all applicable state and federal laws and according to the collective bargaining agreement," said Denise Lamontagne Chief of Police Cromwell Police Department.
Today, Officer Alicea is back to work, fully restored and the proud mother of a beautiful daughter.