A Vienna police officer accused town officials yesterday of discrimination after they ordered her to accept a temporary demotion to clerk status and a loss of pay because she is pregnant and unable to perform her usual police patrol duties.
Laura Myers, 24, said that two weeks ago she asked to be taken off her regular patrol duties and reassigned to a temporary police desk job because she is five months pregnant. But she said she believes the town's decision to strip her of her police status temporarily and reduce her salary is unfair.
"We believe what the town manager is doing is illegal," said Myers' attorney, Rodney Leffler. "They are discriminating against her because she's pregnant. She's not asking for any special treatment, but we have evidence that they have accommodated men with disabilities allowing them to keep their salary and status."
Vienna Town Manager Brackenridge H. Bentley said he is treating Myers the same as he would treat any city employe--male or female--who is temporarily disabled. He said Myers, one of two women on the 30-member force, was offered the clerk's position because there were no vacant desk jobs in the police department.
"She wants to be able to do the clerk's job at her police salary," said Bentley, who said a clerk's salary is about $12,000 a year compared with the $17,000 a year Myers is paid as a police officer. "I don't think that's proper. I don't think that's fair to the taxpayers or other clerks."
Police officials originally assigned Myers to light office duty assignments, according to Myers, after she requested to be taken off of her regular patrol duties.
"People you're trying to arrest see you're a woman and try to take advantage of the situation," Myers said. "If they see you're pregnant, the first thing they do is get you in the gut. I've got to think of the baby."
Last week Bentley said he discovered the arrangement and told police officials he "refused to provide a makeshift job for her and her current salary."
Myers said she burst into tears when Bentley told her he would give her a clerk's position. She said she had no objection to the clerk's job, which involves microfilming police records, but added, "I figured I'd lose my gun and badge."