October 30, 2014

Pregnancy Discrimination is Prohibited Under the Florida Civil Rights Act

storkThe harsh reality is that Florida employees often face unreasonable discrimination in the workplace. The Florida Civil Rights Act makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or marital status. The Florida Supreme Court recently held that discrimination on the basis of pregnancy is also prohibited by the Florida Civil Rights Act.

In deciding the case of Peguy Delva v. The Continental Group, Inc., the Florida Supreme Court reviewed a ruling set forth by the Court of Appeals for the Third District. In the underlying case, Plaintiff brought suit against her employer, alleging that she experienced adverse employment actions because she was pregnant. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that she was not allowed to change or work extra shifts, even though the employer’s policy allowed it. Moreover, according to Plaintiff, her work was exceedingly scrutinized and her employer refused to schedule her to work when she wished to return from maternity leave. Her suit was dismissed at the trial level for failure to state a claim. On appeal, the Third District Court of Appeal held that the Florida Civil Rights Act does not encompass pregnancy discrimination.

When reviewing the Delva case, the Florida Supreme Court noted that there existed a conflict between the Districts over the validity of a pregnancy discrimination claim brought under Florida laws. The Supreme Court looked at the provisions of the Florida Civil Rights Act and acknowledged that the law does not specifically prohibit discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. However, the Act does make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate on the basis of an individual’s sex. The Supreme Court then observed that pregnancy is a condition that is unique to women, and it is a primary trait of the female sex.

Because of that distinction, the Florida Supreme Court held that discrimination on the basis of pregnancy is based upon sex, and therefore prohibited by the Florida Civil Rights Act. To conclude otherwise, the Supreme Court stated, would undermine the Act’s protections. Likewise, the Supreme Court maintained that the Act is meant to be liberally construed to protect Florida citizens from discrimination on the basis of one’s sex.

The Supreme Court did not rule on the merits of Plaintiff’s discrimination claim, but it did resolve a conflict between two Florida District Courts of Appeals.

Other protections against pregnancy discrimination can be found in federal laws such as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently released guidelines for employers to reduce pregnancy discrimination. While the practices suggested by the Commission are not compulsory, they list all the applicable federal statutes and recommend ways for employers to best comply with those laws.

If you or someone you love has experienced workplace discrimination because of pregnancy, race, religion, or any other protected status, you may have a claim. The Southwest Florida employment attorneys at Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano stay up to date on the latest employment law news and developments. Our legal team will discuss the facts of your case and help you to take the next step. Contact us online or call toll-free at (800) 238-7442.

Posted in: Employment Law

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