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Scott signs bill banning pregnancy discrimination into law

On May 21, 2015, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a new law-SB 982: Florida Civil Rights Act, effectively banning discrimination against pregnant women at work and in public places. The law, which becomes effective July 1, 2015, amends Florida’s Civil Rights Act (FCRA) to expand the existing protected classes of race, sex, and physical disability to include pregnancy. Although Federal law, including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, is intended to protect pregnant women- they still experience widespread discrimination.

For more information, or to read the full text of the bill please click here.

You may be asking yourself, “But Alex, isn’t this already illegal?”

Pregnant_womanAnd the answer is yes, since 1978 federal law has recognized pregnancy as a protected class; problem was- the Florida Civil Rights Act did not specifically contain this protection. Back in April 2014, the Florida Supreme Court held in Delva v. Continental Group, Inc. (No. SC12-2315) that “discrimination based on pregnancy is in fact discrimination based on sex because it is discrimination as to a natural condition unique to only one sex.” By passing this legislation, our state lawmakers are just now codifying existing judge-made case law, by amending the express language of the Florida statute itself.

Why now, and what does this mean for you as a business owner in Florida? Simply stated- individuals now have a cause of action for pregnancy discrimination under Florida law, which extends the time period in which an individual has to bring a claim. Also, successful plaintiffs may be able to recover additional damages under state law- where damages are capped differently than they are under Title VII.

What you should do, and ensure you and your hiring managers are always doing- is focusing your attention like a laser on whether the candidate in front of you has the knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform and excel at the position you have available. That, and how well of a cultural fit the candidate would be in your organization. Anything other than that, and you’re taking your proverbial eyes off the ball.

 

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