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Countering 2 Precedents, Florida Court Rules Pregnancy Discrimination Is Not Illegal

| July 26, 2012

pregnancy discrimination in florida

In Florida, your employer may say nyet to that. *Ryan McLaughlin)

In a stunning decision that runs counter to two precedents in two other districts, the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami this week ruled that pregnancy discrimination is not against the law in Florida, even though it is a federal offense.

Peguy Delva worked as a front desk manager at real estate properties owned by the South Florida-based Continental Group from October 2005 until October 2010.

In February 2010, Delva told her boss that she was pregnant. Her supervisor immediately started to treat Delva dismissively, according to court papers, scrutinizing and criticizing her work and initially refusing to approve her transfer from night shift to day shifts despite having a doctor’s note requiring such a transfer. Delva complained that she was being treated that way because of her pregnancy. In response, her supervisor, going against company policy, refused to allow Delva to pick up extra day shifts to earn extra income and instead hired temporary help.

In July 2010, Delva went on pregnancy leave. When she was medically cleared to go back to work, the company never placed her back on the work schedule. Yet “similarly situated male employees who went out on medial leave were allowed to return to work,” court papers state.

Delva sued, charging pregnancy discrimination.

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal dismissed the lawsuit filed in state court, saying the Florida law simply doesn’t include pregnancy as a protected condition, although federal law does. The case may head to the Florida Supreme Court next, because this was the third time an appeals court ruled on the matter, with different results. Twice before, appeals courts have ruled in favor of women who were being discriminated because of pregnancy.

In 2008, the Court of Appeal for the 4th Circuit in West Palm Beach took on the case of Amy Carsillo, a Lake Worth firefighter-paramedic, who sued her employer over a claim of pregnancy discrimination and retaliation when she was offered light duty outside the fire department after she became pregnant. Other firefighter-paramedics who had had physical limitations were offered liught duty within the department. She lost at the district level but won on appeal. “We conclude,” the judges wrote, “that, because the Florida statute is patterned after the Federal Civil Rights Act, which considers pregnancy discrimination to be sex discrimination, the Florida Act bars such discrimination.”

In 1991, however, the Court of Appeal for the 4th Circuit in Tallahassee ruled similarly to Wednesday’s ruling in Miami in the case of Evelyn Pinchback, who was a guard at the St. Johns County Jail between March 1981 and July 1982. She was responsible for booking and releasing male and female inmates, taking mug shots, obtaining fingerprints, delivering food and mail, and providing general security. In March 1982, Pinchback learned that she was two months pregnant. She was reassigned to the canteen where she performed typing, filing, and other clerical duties, though her doctor had cleared her for her usual assignments until her delivery date. In mid-July, she was forced to take maternity leave and, through various misunderstandings, taken off payroll. the payroll. She was then fired when Sheriff O’Loughlin told her by letter that her health and her expectant baby’s health were in obvious danger, and that she could no longer perform the duties and responsibilities of a correctional officer. “At no point prior to her termination had Pinchback been informed that she was regarded by her employer as being incapable of performing her duties, nor had she received any evaluations to that effect,” court papers show.

She sued–and won, even though the court found that there was no explicit anti-discrimination statute in Florida. “It is undisputed that Florida’s Human Rights Act is patterned after Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” the court wrote. That measure was amended in 1978 to include pregnancy discrimination, though Florida hasn’t done likewise with its Human Rights Act. “Florida’s law stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress by not recognizing that discrimination against pregnant employees is sex-based discrimination,” the first circuit ruled. “The protections afforded by Title VII and the [the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978] cannot be eroded by the Florida Act which does not contain a similar provision. Thus, we conclude that the Florida Human Rights Act, specifically Section 760.10, Florida Statutes, is pre-empted by [the federal] Civil Rights Act of 1984, [] to the extent that Florida’s law offers less protection to its citizens than does the corresponding federal law.”

Pinchback was awarded back pay and reinstated.

Curiously, Tuesday’s ruling only focused on half the citation in the above paragraph: the part that says Florida has not amended its Human Rights Act to protect against pregnancy discrimination–omitting the court’s remaining analysis, which dismissed that omission under federal preemption.

Returning to the language of the Florida Civil Rights Act, the three-judge panel in Miami ruled that the act bars employers from firing or refusing to hire or promote people, or otherwise discriminating against them based on “race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status.” It doesn’t mention pregnancy.

The appeals court said there was “no doubt” Delva had a sufficient claim of discrimination. But she should pursue that claim in federal court, it said. Delva did file a case under the federal law, but she later dropped it without explanation.

In her state case, however, Delva asserted that the Florida Civil Rights Act would allow a “more extensive remedy” than the federal law. Writing for the appeals court, Senior Judge Alan Schwartz acknowledged that might be the case.

“The fact remains that pregnancy discrimination is not prohibited by the Florida Civil Rights Act and therefore the state statute provides no remedy,” he wrote.

Delva no longer works for Continental Group.

–FlaglerLive and the News Service of Florida

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12 Responses for “Countering 2 Precedents, Florida Court Rules Pregnancy Discrimination Is Not Illegal”

  1. question says:

    A three-judge panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal dismissed the pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed in STATE COURT,

    which insofar as pregnancy discrimination is FORBIDDEN BY THE FEDERAL CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1984, to the extent that Florida’s law offers less protection to its citizens than does the corresponding federal law…

    FL will LOSE this not-even-close fight.

    Here we go again…STUPID is going to cost Florida another boatload of money when someone brings this case to Fed Court…not to mention …once again, making women suffer through the consequences of their illegal, right wing stupidity.

    Keep on hating women’s rights…brings President Barack Obama all the closer to his 2nd term.

    • goalie says:

      So because women have vajayjay’s and men don’t, we get discriminated against something God created us to do physically. As usual women are screwed in FL. FL needs to stop living in the 1950’s and get in to the 21st century.

  2. Prescient33 says:

    It is apparent that her employer does not meet the threshold for coverage under the Federal Civil Rights Act, which, as I recall, covers only employers with 15 or more employees.

  3. pamala zill says:

    Clearly…Florida. is going. Back to they unevoled past history. This arrogance. Lack of decency. Will boom a rang. Federal. Law is Federal. It strongly is crystal clear in time’s. Of hardship for many especially. Women pregnant. Or t and children. Are being thrown under the bus. Semms like NAZI GERMANY.

  4. tulip says:

    The more I read things, the more I realize that Florida is a STUPID state and shame on the lawmakers! I bet if their wives were treated that way it would be a whole different ballgame.

  5. Dadgum says:


    I would like to know why she took it upon herself to drop the Federal lawsuit. Was she misinformed? I don’t know about this “not a ceiling below nor a ceiling above” with respect to Federal law and State’s rights. If the Florida Division of Human Rights erred in not keeping up with the Federal statute who dropped the chalupa?

  6. The Truth says:

    I have never seen such stupid laws in this state. They are 100 years behind the times. Floridots. Wake up Florida and get with the program.
    How can a State Law Supercede a Federal law is beyond me?

  7. johnny taxpayer says:

    The article improperly references the previous DCA’s decisions as precident, but that is not correct. Those rulings are only precident in those districts. They can certainly be used as persuasive argument but they are not precedent for the 3rd DCA.

    The above poster who claims florida will loose a “boat load” is incorrect as well as this suit was by and individual against a company, not the state of florida. Why this plaintiff failed to file this suit in federal court is somewhat strange.

  8. Liana G says:

    On my old street, the women would have loved to not get their jobs back just so that they can stay at home and raise their kids. I have never met more miserable, angry, unhappy women as the mothers who have to work outside the home to help support their family. Then they go home and have to tend to the kids, deal with homework/after school activities, and all the housework. Kid sick or has a doctor’s appointment, mom has to take care of that too. DAD’s job is more important. Never mind that he can’t afford for his wife to stay at home with the kids. And we wonder why America has the highest divorce rate. Also, current unemployment statistics show that more men than women are unemployed. How are these damaging stats healthy for families to succeed?

    Motherhood is only kind to high income earners who can afford a nanny/housekeeper. Why do the rest of us kid ourselves into believing we can do it all? We can’t! And please don’t make those who choose not to follow this path feel inadequate or incomplete. Please, I and many other women have no desire to become a super-angry depressed mom and corporate slave hooked on antidepressants. I am already partly that because I have to live among you and listen to you – minus the drugs (I’m my mother’s child, she was anti meds/pills, even aspirin).

    So this ruling may be a blessing in disguise for women if they choose to see it that way.

    Feel free to attack. And please don’t excuse your crummy attitude for your prescription running out. I’ve heard that too many times to count. And no, I don’t have any because I don’t use any, so please don’t ask me if I have any to spare either. Doesn’t this sound terrible? Yet I’ve heard them. I even had one friend ask me for the painkiller prescription that my dentist had prescriped when I had my wisdom tooth pulled. My goodness! What are we doing to ourselves? And no, I didn’t give it to her. I shredded it.

    • pamala zill says:

      I understand. Your perspective. In an ideal were respectful ..woman cherished…it would work. That IS NOT THE CASE AND THROUGHT HISTORY NOT HERSTORY has ever been reality. To deny. Women. There choices and voices is ignorance.GET REAL!!! THERE IS NO PRINCE CHARMING. To these arrogant stupid men and yes some women…… females are BREEDERS AND JUST CASH COWS. SAD BUT TRUE

  9. Dadgum says:

    Here. this is where you start. Some of you are all over the story? Start with the Commission and write to them to have the law changed.

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