Fla. lawmakers look to end discrimination against expecting moms

Florida lawmakers look to end discrimination against expecting mothers

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ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -

Pregnant women throughout the United States are protected from employment discrimination under federal law, but that's not necessarily the case in Florida. Two state lawmakers are now trying to change that fact.

Orlando office manager Alexis Daly is 19 weeks pregnant. She said she knows what to expect with this second pregnancy, and so does her boss.

"(Pregnant women are) more driven,"  said Daly. "With a pregnancy or a birth due date you kind of know a deadline, so you want to get things wrapped up at work, make sure everything is on track, make sure your goals are all met before the time you go on maternity leave. You're even more cautious about saving money."

But that's not the case for some women throughout Florida.

Nyesha Sanders said she was fired because she was pregnant. Sanders' case would be considered discrimination under Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, but under current Florida law, it's legal.

"Although the Florida Civil Rights Act is patterned after Title VII, it did not amend it's language to specifically cover pregnancy discrimination," said Anthony Hall, an attorney with the employment and labor law firm Littler Mendelson, P.C. "So there's been some confusion in Florida whether or not pregnancy is indeed covered under the Florida Civil Rights Act."

To fix that issue, two state lawmakers just proposed two bills: SB 774 and HB 717.

"Some (of the pregnant women) are terminated from their jobs or they go into a hostile work environment because of their pregnancy so we want to make sure we eliminate those kinds of things," said State Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando.
 
Penalties would include back pay and punitive damages up to $100,000. The Florida Commission on Human Relations would also have 60 more days to investigate claims.

"Let's not allow employers to prevent women from doing their jobs," said State Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana.

Currently, businesses with fewer than 15 employees are currently exempt from the federal law.  A similar provision would be included in the state's version.

The House version of the bill has not yet been referred to a committee. The Senate version has been referred to the following committees: Commerce and Tourism; Governmental Oversight and Accountability; Judiciary; Rules.

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