Unfortunately, discrimination happens in the workplace every day. Women who are fired due to pregnancy often have legal recourse — holding employers accountable for discrimination and wrongful termination. Do you know the steps you can take?
Here is what you need to do if you’ve been fired due to pregnancy in Florida:
Know the Pregnancy Discrimination Laws that Protect You
Two federal laws are the primary source of protection for pregnant women against discrimination.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act specifies that your employer can’t discriminate against you in terms of your employment just because you’re pregnant. In general, the law means that you can’t be fired, given lesser assignments, rejected for a job or promotion, or be forced to take leave if you’re pregnant, intending to get pregnant or have a medical condition related to pregnancy.
It is important to note that the law only applies to companies with 15 or more people. So if you work for a small business with less than 15 people, you are not covered by the PDA.
The law that people are generally more familiar with is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA specifies that companies with more than 50 employees in a 75-mile radius are required to grant 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave per year to eligible employees for covered conditions, including pregnancy and maternity leave. The FMLA is a law that covers other medical issues too such as caring for a sick loved one.
There is another important provision of the FMLA you should keep in mind. To qualify, you have to be employed by the organization for over a year and have worked at least 1250 hours during that time. If you work for an employer that gives you paid leave, you may be required to use it when you take time off during your pregnancy or after you have your baby.
The State of Florida Law
The state-level protection from pregnancy discrimination in Florida is called the Florida Civil Rights Act. The law itself does not make specific reference to pregnancy, but it has been used by workers seeking justice in addition to the PDA and FMLA because the law does prohibit discrimination based on sex/gender. Like the PDA, the state law only applies to organizations with more than 15 employees. Employment law attorneys are knowledgeable about the scope of federal and state law.
File a Claim
If you’ve been fired due to pregnancy, you will need to file a claim. If you choose to file a federal claim, you will need to do this with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) is the state agency that handles discrimination in the workplace. Depending on your particular situation, one may be a better choice than the other. You can also “dual file” and state a claim under both laws. Getting experienced legal guidance will produce the best possible outcome.
Filing a claim is a necessary part of the process and has to be done before you can go to court.
Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late
It is important to take action in a timely manner if you’ve been fired due to pregnancy. There are statutes of limitations on both the federal and state level. With the EEOC, you have 180 days from the date on which the discrimination occurred to file a claim which is extended to 300 days in states such as Florida where there is a state statute which prohibits the discrimination about which you are complaining. Under the FCHR, you have 365 days to file the state law claim, but you cannot raise the federal law claim after 300 days.
After you file a claim, if there is no determination by the EEOC or FCHR within 180 days, you may proceed to court. If a determination is made prior to 180 days the next steps become a bit more complicated and you will need to act quickly. If a determination is made after 180 days, but before you file a lawsuit, again, the time limitations to take the next steps are short (as short as 90 days). Generally, if going to court is your best legal option, you have to file within 90 days of the EEOC determination for a federal court claim, or one year of the FCHR determination for a state court claim.
Consult With an Experienced Employment Law Attorney
Employment law attorneys work with thousands of Floridians to seek justice after violations of federal and federal and state law. Your employer has a legal team and you deserve equal protection to fight for your rights and hold them accountable. We are here for you in this difficult time.
At Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., our employee rights lawyers are experienced in protecting employees from workplace discrimination when it comes to getting fired due to pregnancy. We are the employee’s law firm— a tireless legal team fighting for your rights.
Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation.