Pregnant woman, not the symphony conductor in story. Photo via Pixabay
Pregnant woman, not the principal in story. Photo via Pixabay

A former La Canada Unified School District principal is suing her employer, alleging she was discriminated against because of her gender when she was demoted to a teacher and later put on indefinite leave, all because the superintendent was unhappy that the plaintiff announced she was pregnant shortly after taking the job.

Christine Castillo’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges sex discrimination and both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. She seeks unspecified damages in the complaint filed Wednesday.

A LCUSD representative did not immediately reply to an email sent for comment.

According to the lawsuit, Castillo moved from Seattle in July 2012 to take the job as principal of La Canada Elementary School. A month later, she met with Superintendent Wendy Sinnette and told her she was pregnant, the suit states.

Sinnette reacted negatively and told Castillo, “This is really going to upset your staff and parents;” “I made it clear what this job required;” and “I need a drink,” the suit alleges.

Sinnette later told Castillo that the Board of Education was “disappointed” that the plaintiff  “waited” to tell the superintendent that the plaintiff was expecting, according to the lawsuit.

Unable to get a clear answer from human resources about the maternity leave time she would be allowed, Castillo did her own research and found that as a new employee she was only entitled to 10 sick days and that she had missed the deadline for disability leave, the suit states.

Castillo began having pregnancy complications in November 2012 and presented notes from her doctor requesting that she be allowed to leave work early, the suit states. After some reluctance, the district eventually allowed her to depart early for two weeks, but the tardiness of the LCUSD response only allowed her to leave early for just one week before her child was born, the suit states. Castillo also was required to work up to 12-hour days to do extra tasks assigned before she gave birth, the suit states.

Castillo stayed on the job all the way until the day before her daughter was born on Dec. 19, 2012, the suit states. A month into her maternity leave, human resources sent Castillo an email stating that her being out of work was costly to the district, the suit states.

Two months after Castillo returned from maternity leave in April 2012, Sinnette gave her a negative evaluation that did not take into account her pregnancy, the suit states. 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, the suit states.

Sinnette also required Castillo to attend school-related conferences in San Diego, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania that were difficult for the plaintiff to travel to as a mother of a newborn, the suit states.

During a meeting in March 2014, Sinnette told Castillo, “I don’t believe you have operated at your fullest potential” and “It was great that you had a baby, but that impacted how things started for you,” the suit states.

A year later, Sinnette met with Castillo and told her the Board of Education was considering not keeping her on as principal because of “negative staff relationships,” the suit states.

Castillo filed an internal complaint a month later alleging she was discriminated and retaliated against because of her gender, her pregnancy and for taking leave, the suit states.

After being told by Sinnette to “clean out her office and turn in her keys,” Castillo left on June 2015 to take another leave based on her doctor’s recommendation, the suit states. That same evening, Sinnette sent an email to Castillo’s staff that a new principal was appointed to La Canada Elementary, the suit states. Later that month, Castillo received a letter from the district stating that she had been reassigned to duties as a first-grade teacher, the suit states.

In November 2015, a final internal investigative report into Castillo’s complaints showed the district did not have an updated leave policy, that Castillo was not given a proper explanation of her maternity leave options and that a LCUSD employee improperly released confidential information about the plaintiff to a third party, the suit states.

That same month, the district told Castillo she would no longer be entitled to the teaching position she was offered and she was instead placed on indefinite leave, the suit states.

–City News Service 

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