TALLAHASSEE – The state's civil rights laws include the protection of women discriminated against for pregnancy, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
The opinion finds that the intent of current statute, though not explicitly addressing pregnancy, protects individuals based on gender.
In a 6-1 decision, the majority justices apply their ruling to the case of plaintiff Peguy Delva, who was working for South Florida real estate developer Continental Group when she became pregnant.
Delva sued the company in 2011 alleging she was denied extra shifts and wasn't scheduled to work after she returned from maternity leave.
The court overturned a lower appellate court ruling that the Florida Civil Rights Act does not extend to discrimination in employment on the basis of pregnancy.
The court's opinion takes a broader view of the law, ruling that discrimination on the basis of pregnancy extends to the law regarding the protection of an individual based on gender.
Although federal law is explicit in its protection of pregnant women, state laws have in some cases failed to be so specific, in some cases relying on protections of gender.
The court cited rulings in Massachusetts and Minnesota in which pregnancy was part of gender protections.
The court writes that although the state's civil rights statute "does not specifically include the word 'pregnancy' in listing the classes of individuals that are protected from employment discrimination," the act does explicitly make discrimination based on sex unlawful.
Chief Justice Ricky Polston was the lone dissenter, faulting the language in statute.
"I respectfully dissent because the plain meaning of the Florida Civil Rights Act does not encompass pregnancy discrimination," Polston wrote. "On its face, the term 'sex' does not refer to whether one is pregnant or not pregnant even though that status is biologically confined to one gender."
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