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Park police officer claims sexual discrimination

Allegations of sexual discrimination clashed with the apparent terms of a union contract Wednesday in the case of a Suffolk County park police officer who says she was discriminated against because she is a woman. Park police officer Tara Germain is suing the county, saying she was illegally denied light-duty assignments when she became pregnant and was not promoted to sergeant because she is a woman. "The central issue in the case . . . is whether a female police officer has to choose between a job she loves and a pay check she needs and getting pregnant and having a family like everyone else," Germain's attorney, Janice Goodman, said at the opening of the trial in U.S. District Court in Central Islip. Goodman is representing Germain along with Gillian Thomas, an attorney with Legal Momentum, the women's rights group formerly known as the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund. But Assistant Suffolk County Attorney Chris Termini said that Germain is fabricating rights that are not part of the park police contract. Germain is "trying to get something that they haven't won at the bargaining table," Termini said, referring to the collective bargaining agreement between the park police union and the county. Termini also said discrimination had nothing to do with Germain's failure to be promoted to sergeant. Termini estimated that between a hip injury and two pregnancies, Germain had worked only a year and half since 2004 as an officer on patrol. At one point when she was being questioned by Goodman, Germain broke down in tears, saying that she should have been happy when her first child was born, but saw "the joy just sucked out of me." Goodman and Thomas argued that under a court decision three years ago in a lawsuit brought by pregnant Suffolk County police officers, the county was barred from denying the officers light-duty assignments when they were pregnant. But Termini has said in court papers that the situations of the county's regular police force and the separate park police are different. Germain is seeking compensation for having to use accrued sick, vacation and personal leave while she was pregnant, unspecified punitive damages, and an order allowing her to be assigned to light-duty work.

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