Santa Clara Co. sheriff's deputy alleges mistreatment during high-risk pregnancy

- By Bay City News Service

A deputy at the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office has filed a complaint with the state alleging distressing work conditions while she was pregnant in April, the Deputy Sheriff's Association of Santa Clara County said today. 

Deputy Aleksandra Ridgeway, who has since returned to full duty in the sheriff's office, said she faced retaliation and discriminatory behavior during a high-risk pregnancy at the age of 37 after suffering one 

"Pregnancy should be one of the most fulfilling and joyous times of a woman's life but this department made me feel that it was frowned upon and an inconvenience to them," Ridgeway said in a complaint to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. 

The complaint says she was forced to commute to the Santa Clara County Superior Court for a "light-duty" assignment instead of a courthouse in Morgan Hill, forcing her to drive two hours daily.

She said she then had to work with inmates who exhibited symptoms of flu, tuberculosis, MRSA and AIDS.  

Ridgeway, a 13-year veteran of the department, is receiving support from the Deputy Sheriff's Association, a non-profit that represents sheriff's office employees.

She has worked in patrol, as a community resource deputy and received a Thin Blue Line award in 2010 for saving a man from on oncoming drunk driver.

"My treatment has caused me to make a very difficult personal decision - that I cannot endure another pregnancy while still employed by the Sheriff's Office," she said in the complaint.

Sheriff's office spokesman Richard Glennon said the office cannot comment on a personnel matter. 

Sheriff Laurie Smith offered a general statement touting her career-long mission to advance women in the workplace. Smith's statement included testimonials from two other deputies who said their needs were accommodated during their pregnancies. 

"As a mother myself, I appreciate the balance of managing this career with having children," Smith said in a statement. "At the Sheriff's Office, we make all practicable accommodations for expectant mothers, and I would not stand for anything less."

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