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A bill banning discrimination against pregnant women at work and in public places passed the Florida legislature April 24 – unanimously in the Senate and nearly unanimously in the House of Representatives – and awaits Gov. Rick Scott’s signature. If signed, the law would be effective July 1, 2015.
The bill would amend Florida’s Civil Rights Act (FCRA) to expand the existing protected classes of race, sex, and physical disability to include pregnancy. Federal law, including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, is intended to protect pregnant women, but they still experience widespread discrimination.
Lawmakers introduced the bill to codify the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Delva v. Continental Group, Inc. (April 17, 2014), which held by a vote of 6-1 that FCRA applies not only to sex discrimination but also to pregnancy discrimination. Plaintiff Peggy Delva, a front desk manager at a condominium building, sued her employer for barring her from covering other workers’ shifts after she became pregnant and firing her when she returned from leave. Delva sued, alleging employment discrimination based on pregnancy, but the lower courts dismissed her complaint for failing to state a cause of action.
However, the state supreme court found that Delva had been discriminated against on the basis of her pregnancy and that this violated Florida’s law against sex discrimination. The court reasoned that FCRA's prohibition against sex discrimination includes pregnancy because pregnancy is a "natural condition and primary characteristic unique only to the female sex."
If the bill is signed, a Florida employee will have the option to bring a pregnancy discrimination claim in state court under FCRA. Currently the only option would be to bring a pregnancy discrimination suit under Title VII in federal court.
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