This being Florida, I expect bizarre court cases from time to time. However, the Florida Supreme Court has restored my faith (for now) that sanity will eventually reign. Two years ago, the Third District Court of Appeal, which covers Miami, ruled that pregnancy discrimination was not discrimination based on sex. Fortunately, the Fourth District, covering my home county, ruled the other way. This let the Florida Supremes decide which was right. They just ruled, and they found that the Florida Civil Rights Act, which covers sex discrimination, but doesn't mention pregnancy, makes pregnancy discrimination illegal. Here's what they said:
Liberally construing the FCRA to further its purpose to ensure that the women of this state are free from discrimination based on their sex, § 760.01(2)(3), Fla. Stat., we conclude that discrimination based on pregnancy is subsumed within the prohibition in the FCRA against discrimination based on an individual’s “sex.” As the Minnesota Supreme Court held regarding its state law that at the time “prohibited discrimination in employment on the basis of sex, but did not specifically mention pregnancy and childbirth,” pregnancy discrimination is subsumed within sex discrimination, as “[a] woman should be no more burdened than a man if she chooses to combine the roles of parent and employee, simply because the woman must bear the child.” Minn. Mining & Mfg. Co. v. State, 289 N.W.2d 396, 398, 400 (Minn. 1979) [an enhanced version of this opinion is available to lexis.com subscribers]. To conclude that the FCRA does not protect women from discrimination based on pregnancy—a primary characteristic of the female sex—would undermine the very protection provided in the FCRA to prevent an employer from discriminating against women because of their sex.
So common sense wins the day. Congratulations to every pregnant woman in Florida, who is now protected against discrimination under Florida law. Kudos to the lawyers who fought for the women of Florida and won. You just changed the world for the better.
See more employment law posts on Donna Ballman's blog, Screw You Guys, I'm Going Home.
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