A Georgia woman’s case is highlighting the shame and embarrassment society has wrapped around a normal bodily function — menstrual cycles.
After working 10 years as a 911 call taker, Alisha Coleman says she was fired for having two heavy period leaks while she was working.
“I loved my job at the 911 call center because I got to help people,” Coleman said via a statement released by the The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “Every woman dreads getting period symptoms when they’re not expecting them, but I never thought I could be fired for it. Getting fired for an accidental period leak was humiliating. I don’t want any woman to have to go through what I did, so I’m fighting back.”
In two separate incidents between August 2015 to April 2016, Coleman accidentally leaked menstrual blood into her office chair and on the carpet in her office. She was given a disciplinary write up after the first accident. Coleman was dismissed for the day after the second incident. When she returned to work in April 2016, she was terminated.
The ACLU has taken on her case after it was dismissed by a district court in February. Her first case was dismissed because the court rejected her argument that her pre-menopause systems were related to pregnancy or childbirth under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
But the ACLU claims the lower court failed to recognize that under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the side effects of periods and pre-menopause are protected. This legislation bans workplace discrimination on the basis of sex.
Georgia executive director Andrea Young said in a statement: “Employers have no business policing women’s bodies or their menstrual cycles. Firing a woman for getting her period at work is offensive and an insult to every woman in the workplace. A heavy period is something nearly all women will experience, especially as they approach menopause, and Alisha was shamed, demeaned and fired for it. That’s wrong and illegal under federal law. We’re fighting back.”