ATLANTA —The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Georgia and the law firm Buckley Beal LLP announced a settlement today on behalf of a woman who alleged that she was fired from her job in 2016 because her period leaked.
The woman, Alicia Coleman, had been employed through a job training and employment agency in Fort Benning, Georgia as a 911 operator, a job she had held for nearly a decade. She alleged that she was terminated from her job after her period came on unexpectedly while at work. Because she was going through menopause, her period had become irregular and could be very sudden and heavy. She said that after her period leaked on two occasions several months apart, her employer fired her, claiming that it was because she had failed to use proper hygiene.
“I worked hard all my life, and I loved my job. I hope my speaking out will encourage other women who believe they have suffered discrimination in any form to come forward,” said Ms. Coleman
Ms. Coleman initially filed her case in federal court in the Middle District of Georgia, in January of 2017. That court dismissed her case, finding that she had not adequately alleged that what happened to her was a form of sex discrimination. The ACLU then took up her case and appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that premenopause and the associated sudden-onset heavy menstruation should be considered protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal law that prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, including “pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions.”
However, the ACLU reached a settlement with her employer, the Bobby Dodd Institute, before the appeal could be heard. The terms of the settlement are confidential.
“It’s a shame that Ms. Coleman never got her day in court, but we are happy that we were able to arrive at a settlement for our client,” said Sean J. Young, Legal Director of the ACLU of Georgia. “Ms. Coleman’s courage in speaking out helped to start an important conversation about women and periods in the workplace, and to challenge taboos that treat simple biological facts experienced by half the population as shameful.”
The ACLU took up Ms. Coleman’s case as a part of its longstanding effort to ensure an equal playing field for women at work, and achieve a workplace that does not penalize female employees at any stage of their lifespan because of their reproductive function.
“Although Title VII has been the law for 53 years, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act is about to turn 40, full equality for women at work is unfortunately still out of reach for too many women.” said Brian J. Sutherland, a partner with the Atlanta law firm of Buckley Beal, LLP. “We are very pleased to have partnered with the ACLU in advocating for Ms. Coleman and achieving a positive outcome in her case.”