In the case of Delay v Continental Group Inc a pregnant female sues her employer claiming she was discriminated against due to being pregnant and that this was a case of discrimination based on sex, a violation of state law. However, the trial court dismissed the suit saying that pregnancy was not covered under the Florida Civil Rights Act.
The appellate court then affirmed the decision but the Florida Supreme Court reversed based on the fact that pregnancy is a condition that can be applicable only to one sex and therefore falls under sexual discrimination.
This is a very interesting ruling. On the one hand, it does seem only fair that pregnancy should not be a reason for demotion or termination. After all, if we punish pregnancy, then taken to the extreme we can wipe out the human race eventually.
However, many jobs in the world require a person to perform physical labor. There are a lot of things a pregnant woman should not be doing for her and her baby’s health sake. For example, do we want a pregnant police officer wrestling a dangerous criminal to the ground or a pregnant firefighter breathing in toxic gases or climbing up stairs carrying all the fire fighting gear?
What would happen if a woman lost her baby or suffered serious health consequences as a result of not being given a sabbatical or perhaps given a “desk job” under the auspices of non-discrimination? Would she then be able to sue?
As an employer, how would one know what to do about the hiring and placement of women of child-bearing age? Obviously most jobs can be done just fine while pregnant. But there are many that simply cannot. What can be done if the pregnant woman insists she can still do the job and in doing so puts herself in danger? Does the employer not have a responsibility to do the right thing? Or should he/she be worried about a Civil Rights lawsuit and let the pregnant woman hurt herself?
This is a different kind of civil rights issue than most. Being of a certain race, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation is not a temporary condition and also has little to no bearing on one’s ability to do their job any better or worse. But pregnancy is a temporary condition and may well impede a person’s ability to do her job.