A former principal at La Canada Unified School District just got the okay from a judge to take her lawsuit to trial. In her lawsuit, the former principal, Christine Castillo, alleges she was the “subject of a backlash after she filed an internal complaint about pregnancy discrimination.”
Pregnancy discrimination has been in the news a lot lately, especially since New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that a state agency will begin investigating allegations of pregnancy discrimination at a variety of different companies. But it’s not just New York. Many pregnant women across the country have stepped forward in recent months to tell their stories of how they were discriminated against while pregnant on the job, and many have even filed lawsuits against their employers as a result. For example, a former principal at La Canada Unified School District just got the okay from a judge to take her lawsuit to trial. In her lawsuit, the former principal, Christine Castillo, alleges she was the “subject of a backlash after she filed an internal complaint about pregnancy discrimination.”
Castillo filed the lawsuit back in December 2016, years after the pregnancy discrimination incident occurred. Her ordeal began in July 2012 when she “moved from Seattle to take the job as principal of La Canada Elementary School.” About a month after her move, she allegedly “met with Superintendent Wendy Sinnette and told her she was pregnant.” According to the lawsuit, Sinnette wasn’t pleased about the news and said, “This is really going to upset your staff and parents…I made it clear what this job required…I need a drink.” Later on, Sinnette also told her that the “Board of Education was disappointed that Castillo waited to tell the superintendent that she was expecting.”
Things only went downhill from there. While trying to figure out and coordinate maternity leave she struggled to get a “clear answer from human resources about the maternity leave time she would be allowed.” Because of that, she conducted her own research and learned that “as a new employee she was only entitled to 10 sick days and that she had missed the deadline for disability leave.”
Throughout her pregnancy, she continued to carry out her duties and responsibilities and “stayed on the job all the way until the day before her daughter was born on Dec. 19, 2012,” the suit states. However, “a month into her maternity leave, human resources sent Castillo an email stating that her being out of work was costly to the district.”
She soon returned to work, but two months later “Sinnette gave her a negative evaluation that did not take into account her pregnancy.” Additionally, “Sinnette also gave two other elementary school principals a chance to earn extra money on a project but did not offer the same opportunity to Castillo,” according to the lawsuit. To make matters worse, Castillo was also allegedly required to “attend school-related conferences in San Diego, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania that were difficult for her to travel to as a mother of a newborn.”
Later on in March of 2014, Castillo met with Sinnette for a meeting where Sinnette allegedly told her, “I don’t believe you have operated at your fullest potential.” She also added, “It was great that you had a baby, but that impacted how things started for you,” according to the suit.
Then, a year later, Sinnette informed Castillo that the Board of Education was thinking about not keeping her “on as principal because of negative staff relationships.” Shortly after that meeting, Castillo filed an internal complaint alleging “she was discriminated and retaliated against because of her gender, her pregnancy, and for taking leave.”
In June 2015 Castillo was advised by her doctor to take another leave. Before beginning her leave, Sinnette allegedly told her to “clean out her office and turn in her keys.” According to the lawsuit, that same evening “Sinnette sent an email to Castillo’s staff that a new principal was appointed to La Canada Elementary.” Castillo also allegedly received a letter from the school district later on stating “she had been reassigned to duties as a first-grade teacher.”
Later that year an internal investigation into Castillo’s complaints determined that the school district “did not have an updated leave policy, that Castillo was not given a proper explanation of her maternity leave options, and that an LCUSD employee improperly released confidential information about the plaintiff to a third party,” according to the suit. In retaliation to the investigation that stemmed from Castillo’s complaints, the district informed her “she would no longer be entitled to the teaching position she was offered and she was instead placed on indefinite leave.”
A trial to determine the outcome of Castillo’s lawsuit is scheduled for September 18 of this year.