Charleston County Schools settles with ACLU, now allows employees to share paid leave with new and expecting moms

CCSD changed its paid leave policy in March

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After a challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Charleston County School District now allows its 6,500 employees to donate paid sick leave to new and expecting moms.

Under previous rules, school district employees could share a portion of their paid leave days with coworkers who needed time off because of a "serious health condition" or to take care of an immediate family member.

The policy, however, "expressly forbade" employees from sharing accrued leave with coworkers who needed time off due to pregnancy or recovery from childbirth, according to the ACLU of South Carolina.



On Dec. 5, 2017, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that CCSD's policy violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions.

"Depriving pregnant workers and new moms of access to an income replacement program while extending it to workers with a wide range of health conditions is precisely the sort of different treatment the statute was intended to outlaw," said Susan Dunn, the state ACLU's legal director, in a statement.

The United States is the only country in the developed world to offer "no statutory entitlement to paid leave on a national basis," according to a 2017 report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an organization of 36 countries with a high Human Development Index.

CCSD spokesperson Andrew Pruitt says the school district changed its rules earlier this year.

"Once CCSD was made aware of the issue, the board of trustees voted to amend our policy in March 2018, even prior to a resolution to the claim," Pruitt said in an email to the City Paper.

The new policy, as revised on March 26, does not mention pregnancy or childbirth. It allows employees who have accumulated "in excess of 10 sick leave days" to donate up to half of those days to an employee of their choosing. The receiving employee must work a minimum of 30 hours a week, must be on approved leave longer than 20 days, and must have used up all personal, annual, and sick leave before they can receive donations.

The school district, the ACLU of South Carolina, and the Women's Rights Project of the ACLU finalized a settlement last week. As part of the deal, CCSD paid damages to the employee who lodged the initial complaint on April 2017.

The ACLU declined to identity their client.

The EEOC found that she was denied sick leave donations while on leave for "post-natal care."

The school district reimbursed her for lost wages, according to ACLU of S.C. spokesperson Jessica McFadden. It also reimbursed the ACLU for a portion of its attorneys' fees. The district did not immediately disclose the settlement amount.

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