The U.S. Justice Department has accused Palm Beach Central High School’s principal of illegally discriminating against an assistant principal at a school he previously ran by demoting her after she became pregnant.
In a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday, the Justice Department alleged that Darren Edgecomb, then principal of Turning Points Academy near West Palm Beach, punished an assistant principal who went on maternity leave in 2011 by demoting her and cutting her pay.
The assistant principal, Anne Williams Dorsey, was replaced by a male administrator with less experience and who she had trained herself, federal attorneys say.
Dorsey said that she got word of her demotion from Edgecomb as she was in a hospital delivery room getting ready to give birth to twins.
The Justice Department says that Edgecomb’s actions amounted to sexual discrimination, a violation of federal civil rights laws.
In its lawsuit, federal officials are asking a court to require that the county’s public school system “implement appropriate and effective measures to prevent discrimination and retaliation.”
In a statement, the school district said that it was working to address the issue.
“The District was already engaged in a thorough review of its anti-discrimination policies before this case was filed, and has made many changes to its practices and procedures since the allegations first came to light in 2010,” the district said.
Dorsey said in an interview Wednesday that the Justice Department’s lawsuit was “a long time coming” and called it a victory for working women.
“It speaks volume to my girls, to let them know that women do have power and it’s okay to have children,” said Dorsey, now an assistant principal overseeing a construction academy at West Tech Educational Center in Belle Glade. “It shouldn’t be a punishment to get pregnant.”
Edgecomb did not return a phone call seeking comment.
According to the lawsuit, the discrimination against Dorsey began soon after she told Edgecomb in 2010 that she intended to become pregnant through in vitro fertilization.
Not long afterward, Dorsey was removed from her position as lead assistant principal, and another assistant principal with less experience was put in the position.
Explaining his decision, Edgecomb told Dorsey that he felt more comfortable with a man in the position, the lawsuit alleges.
In August, around the time that she announced she had become pregnant, Dorsey was required to surrender her office to the less-senior assistant principal, who also took over more of her responsibilities.
Around that time, Dorsey alerted Edgecomb of a sexual harassment complaint that a teacher had made against the man who replaced her as lead assistant principal.
According to the lawsuit, Edgecomb discouraged the teacher from filing a formal complaint, and the teacher agreed.
Dorsey went on maternity leave in March 2011 and went in labor on April 12.
On that same day, the lawsuit alleges, Edgecomb called her to let her know that she was being demoted to a lower-paying assistant principal position. The school board ratified the decision the following month.
When Dorsey returned from maternity leave in September, she noticed on her first paycheck that her pay had been cut.
The suit states that Dorsey “felt humiliated by Edgecomb’s decision to replace her with someone whom she had trained and who had significantly less experience as an assistant principal.”
The following year, Dorsey filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.