Just a day after a pair of Democratic lawmakers announced they were filing bills to make pregnancy discrimination illegal, Florida’s Supreme Court took up the issue Thursday.
Peguy Delva alleges after returning from maternity leave her the property management group she worked for no longer had a job for her. Although there is currently no Florida statute that makes it illegal to discriminate against pregnant people, Delva’s lawyer Travis Hollifield argued since only women can get pregnant, discrimination based on her condition is effectively sex discrimination, which is illegal in the Sunshine State.
“All of the dictionaries that we typically use including Black’s Law Dictionary, Webster’s Merriam, just about every other dictionary you can open, when you read the definition of sex it includes a discussion of the different physical and physiological characteristics of the two genders and focusing on reproductive functions,” Hollifield told the court.
But Andrew Rodman, a lawyer for Delva’s former employer, says the case hinges on a statutory question: are pregnant women a protected class? According to Florida law they’re not and Rodman said if the Florida Legislature meant to ban discrimination against pregnant women, they would’ve done it by now.
“If you look at the complaint that was filed in the circuit court, the one that resulted in the dismissal order, it is abundantly clear from looking at the complaint that Ms. Delva is trying to create a new protected classification. The complaint clearly states that she believes she was discriminated against because of her pregnancy. She’s trying to create a ninth protected classification,” Rodman argued.
Pregnancy has been a protected class in federal legislation for 35 years. There’s no deadline for a decision in the case.