The town of Vienna has dropped efforts to demote a 24-year-old policewoman to clerk and cut her pay by $5,000 during the final stages of her pregnancy, heading off a threatened lawsuit by the officer charging sex discrimination.
Town Manager Brackenridge Bentley said he made the decision after finding that there was some substance to patrol officer Laura Myers' claims that male officers with temporary disabilities were assigned to less strenuous work and continued to collect full pay.
Bentley said yesterday that pending completion of her pregnancy, Myers will assist in instruction at the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Academy, a regional facility in Fairfax City that trains officers for 22 jurisdictions, and will retain her full $17,000 salary and status as an officer.
"I'm just glad it's all over with," said Myers, a Chantilly resident who joined Vienna's 33-officer force a year ago. " . . . It's been a stress."
Myers, whose husband is also a member of the Vienna police force, said most of the town's male officers sided with her in the dispute. "They helped a lot and gave me a lot of encouragement," she said.
Five months pregnant, Myers requested two weeks ago that she be relieved of regular patrol duties until after her baby is born. After she was assigned to clerical duties in a microfilm section, Bentley ordered her to take a temporary demotion to clerk, promising that her pay and status as an officer would be restored when she returned from maternity leave.
Bentley contended that no desk jobs for officers were open and it was unfair to taxpayers and other clerks to continue her pay as an officer. Myers refused to comply, saying she did not want to give up her gun and badge; went on annual leave and threatened to file a suit alleging sex discrimination.
Bentley said yesterday he had found borderline cases of disabled men being assigned to lighter work, although the practice appeared to violate town regulations that require employes to take leave if they cannot perform their full duties. He said the rules would have to be reviewed.
One police supervisor with a back injury was allowed to carry out his duties from behind a desk, rather than observing his officers from a patrol car as he is normally required to do periodically, Bentley said.
At the academy, Myers will help prepare and grade examinations and will play the role of citizens and crime victims in exercises that drill trainees in practical police skills.
All jurisdictions are required to "lend" officers for such purposes periodically.