The State of Florida, through Florida Statute 760, provides vital protection against discrimination for individuals on the basis of several categories including sex, color, and religion. One category of individuals noticeably missing from such beneficial protection is pregnant mothers. Federal law has afforded them protection since 1978. Over the last decade there have been multiple attempts to amend Statute 760 to include pregnant women as a protected class. To date, including this past legislative session, all such attempts have failed.
The main issue preventing the amending of the statute is the apparent ambiguity within Florida’s Civil Rights Act. Legal opinions from throughout the state are far from conclusive in their interpretation of this Act, and in many instances, contradictory. While some courts afford pregnant women remedies for being victims of discrimination, other courts completely deny pregnant women any protection under the Act.
The Florida Commission on Human Relations FCHR fully supported this year’s proposed legislation entitled the “Protect Our Women Act”. This legislation would clarify state law by expressly including pregnancy as a protected class in the instance of discrimination, and would ensure women who are pregnant or have children are given protection and remedies should they face discrimination. Senator Geraldine Thompson and Representative Lori Berman are once again working to move the legislation through the legislative process. I encourage all Floridians to contact their local lawmakers in support of this important legislation.
It is essential that all persons vulnerable or at risk of being discriminated against as a result of being members of a specific class be guaranteed protection not only on a Federal level, but by Florida as well.
Mario Valle, Chair
Florida Commission on Human Relations