For nearly 10 years, Alisha Coleman worked as a 911 dispatcher for a facility that helps people with disabilities. Coleman claims that in 2016 she lost the job that she loved after experiencing symptoms associated with premenopause. Coleman has teamed up with the American Civil Liberties Union after being abruptly let go by the Bobby Dodd Institute in Fort Benning, Ga., and has filed a lawsuit against her former employer.
Coleman says that she unexpectedly got her period, which stained an office chair. She was told that if this happened again, she would be fired. When she accidentally leaked again while on her period, she was fired for reportedly being unable to “practice high standards of personal hygiene and maintain a clean, neat appearance while on duty,” her complaint states, according to the New York Daily News.
“I loved my job at the 911 call center because I got to help people,” Coleman said in a press statement posted by the ACLU, People magazine reports. “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.”
The Daily News reports that Coleman’s case was dismissed by a district court, which ruled that “premenopause is not a condition that is protected by the law,” but “the ACLU of Georgia is helping Coleman to battle that decision, arguing it’s a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.”
Title VII says that workplaces are unable to discriminate based on gender, including “pregnancy, childbirth and related conditions,” according to the Daily News.
“Federal law is supposed to protect women from being punished, harassed or fired because of their sex, and being fired for unexpectedly getting your period at work is the very essence of sex discrimination,” Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney at the Women’s Rights Project of the ACLU, told the Daily News. “This kind of blatant discrimination against women in the workplace is why the ACLU Women’s Rights Project was founded 45 years ago, and why the fight for gender equality must continue.”