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Pregnancy discrimination unlawful under Florida state law

Last week, the Florida Supreme Court took a look at the state’s laws against gender discrimination and ruled that the current law applies to pregnant women as well as women in general. The ruling is expected to resolve divisions about gender discrimination in the state’s lower courts. Lawmakers will also vote on a proposed bill to add pregnancy discrimination to the Florida Civil Rights Act this session.

The ruling stems from a case filed by a former front desk manager for a property management firm. According to court documents, the former employee alleged that the firm did not allow her to alter her work schedule and that she was not given a schedule after her maternity leave ended. Two Miami courts ruled on the side of the property management firm, but the appeals court ruled that the woman did actually have grounds for a discrimination suit. However, the appeals court said that the discrimination law did not extend to pregnancy.

Federal law does contain an unambiguous ban on pregnancy discrimination in the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, but federal law imposes caps on some of the legal damages depending on the business’s size. State law does not impose caps, and it also gives the plaintiffs in a case more time to make discrimination claims and file lawsuits. The Florida Supreme Court’s 6-1 ruling says that even though pregnancy is not specified in the state’s discrimination laws, it does include pregnant women.

Unfortunately, pregnancy and maternity leave discrimination is still a problem in some areas of the country despite state laws and the rules of the Family and Medical Leave Act. In order to continue ensuring that the rights of pregnant women and families in America remain intact, it sometimes takes legal action. The Florida Senate has approved a bill (SB 220) to add pregnancy to the Florida Civil Rights Act, and a House companion is ready for a vote.

Source: Jacksonville Business Journal, “Florida Supreme Court: Pregnancy discrimination barred under state law” Dara Kam, Apr. 18, 2014

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