Officer Jennifer Panattoni was on a Chicago-area police force for over 14 years before an act of alleged discrimination has pitted her against her own precinct.
According to a local ABC affiliate, Panattoni claims she was forced to take unpaid leave for fear of risking her pregnancy. Panattoni says that after she announced her pregnancy, she suggested roles that would better suit her changing body. She told ABC7 Eyewitness News:
“I identified a bunch of different jobs I could do, such as follow-up with witnesses, or working on crime prevention. Everything that we had brought up had just been denied.”
Panattoni pushed back at superiors, requesting for proper security equipment that would fit her pregnant frame. According to the veteran police officer, she was refused that, too. Instead, she was left with an uncomfortable — and potentially dangerous — bulletproof vest:
“I wasn’t allowed to have a bulletproof vest that fit. It was getting so tight it was hard to breathe. I could feel, sitting in my squad car with my vest popped open, and my bulletproof vest open and my duty belt, I could feel my son kicking against the duty belt underneath.”
Now, nearly 13 months after she gave birth to her son, Panattoni is taking action. With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Frankfort, Illinois police offer is taking legal action, ABC7 reported.
What hurt her the most? The attitude of her superiors:
“Originally, my chief said he only had to treat me like someone who had broken a leg; if I couldn’t work, I had to stay home. That’s what hurt the most.”
Amy Meek, her ACLU attorney, claims the Frankfort Police Department actively discriminated against Panattoni, and they’re not going down without a fight:
“The Frankfort Police Department’s actions were clearly in violation of federal and state law. They really are supposed to work together under the law to try and find an accommodation that works. And again, an employer cannot place a pregnant worker on leave when another accommodation is available.”
Panattoni hopes her lawsuit can serve as a lesson for other women on the force to stick up for their own bodies and rights:
“I love my job, love the village, love everybody I work for. I would hope they would come up with new policies to prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future.”
Panattoni maintains a position as a senior patrol officer as her lawsuit against the Frankfort Police Department continues.