In a brief filed in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Georgia and co-counsel Buckley Beal LLP argued that their client, Alisha Coleman, was subjected to unlawful workplace discrimination when she was fired for experiencing a heavy period, a symptom of premenopause.
“Employers have no business policing women’s bodies or their menstrual cycles,” said Andrea Young, ACLU of Georgia executive director. “Firing a woman for getting her period at work is offensive and an insult to every woman in the workplace. A heavy period is something nearly all women will experience, especially as they approach menopause, and Alisha was shamed, demeaned and fired for it. That’s wrong and illegal under federal law. We’re fighting back.”
“Federal law is supposed to protect women from being punished, harassed or fired because of their sex, and being fired for unexpectedly getting your period at work is the very essence of sex discrimination,” said Galen Sherwin, Senior Staff Attorney at the Women’s Rights Project of the ACLU. “This kind of blatant discrimination against women in the workplace is why the ACLU Women’s Rights Project was founded 45 years ago, and why the fight for gender equality must continue.”
Coleman was employed as a 911 call taker for the Bobby Dodd Institute, a job training and employment agency in Fort Benning, Georgia where she had worked for nearly a decade, when she was fired in 2016 for experiencing two incidents of sudden onset, heavy menstrual flow, a symptom of premenopause.
“I loved my job at the 911 call center because I got to help people,” said Coleman. “Every woman dreads getting period symptoms when they're not expecting them, but I never thought I could be fired for it. Getting fired for an accidental period leak was humiliating. I don’t want any woman to have to go through what I did, so I'm fighting back.”
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, including “pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions.” The brief argues that the district court, which dismissed the case in February, erred in ruling that premenopause and the associated sudden-onset heavy menstruation are not protected under Title VII.
Pictured at right are Alisha Coleman and her daughter Kristi Wilborn, her son Jerimiah Coleman (12), and her granddaughter Iyuana Wilborn (5)