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New Florida Law Prohibits Job Discrimination Based on Pregnancy

Claims of workplace discrimination by expectant mothers-to-be will soon be recognized as a protected status under Florida law. May 21, 2015, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 982 to amend the Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA), which expressly prohibits pregnancy-based discrimination in employment practices and places of public lodging and food service establishments. The bill codifies the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling in Delva v. Continental Group, Inc. (Fla. 2014).

The underlying facts of the case involved a former front desk manager, Peguy Delva, who sued her employer, the Continental Group Inc., for employment discrimination based on her pregnancy. Delva claimed that after notifying her employer of her pregnancy, she was no longer allowed to pick up additional shifts and was informed that she no longer had a job after she returned to work a few weeks after giving birth. The case challenged whether pregnancy-based discrimination was protected under the FCRA.

According to Section 760.01(2) of the FCRA, the purpose of the act was to protect individuals from “discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status.” At the federal level, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been amended to include pregnancy as a protected status within sex discrimination through the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. However, it was unclear whether pregnancy-based discrimination would be protected under the statutory language of the FCRA for state claims.

In a 6-1 decision, the Florida Supreme Court overturned the rulings of the lower courts and held that the FCRA ‘s prohibition against sex discrimination in employment practices extended to pregnancy-based discrimination as pregnancy is a “natural condition and primary characteristic unique only to the female sex.” The Florida Supreme Court reasoned that a strict interpretation of the FCRA would undermine the legislative intent of the Act “to secure all individuals within the state freedom from discrimination” because of sex.

Although the court’s ruling did not explicitly address whether pregnancy discrimination was applicable in places of public accommodation, the amendment to the FCRA expressly extended the prohibition against pregnancy discrimination in both employment situations and public accommodations like hotels and food service establishments.

Implications for Employers

Under the FCRA, employers are prohibited from discriminating against pregnant women in a manner that constitutes an unlawful employment practice. Examples of prohibited acts include the following:

  • discharging or failing to hire an individual, or otherwise discriminating against an individual with respect to employment compensation, terms, conditions, or benefits of employment;
  • refusing to refer individual for employment;
  • depriving an employee or applicant of employment opportunities; and
  • discrimination in admission to or employment in training programs.

Implications for Plaintiffs

Under the amended law, a Florida plaintiff will have the option to file a pregnancy discrimination claim in state court under the FCRA as well as Title VII in federal court. Previously, a plaintiff had standing to file a pregnancy discrimination claim in federal court as it was unclear whether the FCRA would apply in state courts. Additionally, the Florida law gives plaintiffs an additional 6 months to file a charge of discrimination claim. Under federal law, plaintiffs are required to file a charge of discrimination claim under Title VII with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 180 days of the date of the alleged discrimination, otherwise the claim will be dismissed as untimely. Under the FCRA, plaintiffs have 365 days to file a charge of discrimination claim with the Florida Commission on Human Relations before a claim is dismissed as untimely.

Contact a Florida Labor and Employment Lawyer Today

As of July 1, 2015, pregnancy-based discrimination in employment and public accommodations will be expressly prohibited. If you believe you have experienced discrimination in your workplace by your employer because you are pregnant, you may be entitled to a financial compensation. The Tampa lawyers at Barbas, Nuñez, Sanders, Butler & Hovsepian are experienced in representing clients in labor and employment matters including employment discrimination, sexual harassment, and wrongful termination cases. We offer a free, no obligation consultation and are ready to answer any legal questions you may have. Contact us today toll-free at 1-800-227-2275 or via our website to schedule a free consultation to discuss your next steps.

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