Sunshine State lacks provisions safeguarding pregnant women from discrimination

'All that needs to be done is for the House to take up the Senate bill out of Messages, vote on it and send it to the Governor!'

Mario Valle, Florida Commission on Human Relations / Headline Surfer®By MARIO VALLE
Chair, Florida Commission on Human Relations
Written as an op ed submission for publication in Headline Surfer® 
 

TALLAHASSEE -- The State of Florida through chapter 760 of the Florida Statutes 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 women. Federal law has afforded them protection since 1978.

Over the last decade, there have been multiple attempts to amend Florida law to include pregnant women as a protected class; however to date, including this current 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.

Over the last decade, there have been multiple attempts to amend Florida law to include pregnant women as a protected class; however to date, including this current 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.

Over the last decade, there have been multiple attempts to amend Florida law to include pregnant women as a protected class; however to date, including this current 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 lower courts 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. Recently, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that pregnancy is a covered basis for discrimination under Chapter 760, F.S.

Pregnancy statutes protecting women from discrimination lacking in Florida / Headline Surfer®Photo illustration from Wikipedia for Headline Surfer® /
More needs to be done to safeguard pregnant women in Florida from discrimination. Legislation now in the Statehouse would go a long way to addressing this situation, if passed, contends the Florida Commission on Human Relations as expressed by its chair, Mario Valle.
 

Because of this ruling, the Florida House has decided that there is no need to bring to the House Floor clarifying legislation (CS/HB 105 and CS/SB 220). Both bills have made substantial progress through this year's legislative session - passing out of seven committees in both houses, and ultimately voted out by the full Senate, where it passed unanimously.

Currently, the Senate version is in Messages to the House, while its House companion sits languishing in the House Rules Committee, where it's likely to die on the last day of session.

All that needs to be done is for the House to take up the Senate bill out of Messages, vote on it and send it to the Governor!

For clarification purposes, the provision needs to be codified in the Florida Statutes, especially given Justice Polston's dissenting opinion stating that pregnancy is not specifically covered in current law.

Case law is open to interpretation, so any decision made by the current court can be readily reversed by future courts as new judges are seated (four judges are retiring in the next five years and four judges constitute the majority of the Supreme Court).

Such reversal or change of opinion would mean that the Florida Civil Rights Act would no longer include pregnancy as a basis for discrimination. Should this happen, the Florida Legislature will, once again, be considering legislation to clarify that Florida law includes pregnancy as a basis of discrimination.

Such reversal or change of opinion would mean that the Florida Civil Rights Act would no longer include pregnancy as a basis for discrimination. Should this happen, the Florida Legislature will, once again, be considering legislation to clarify that Florida law includes pregnancy as a basis of discrimination.

While the judiciary exists to interpret, construe and apply the laws as written, the Legislature is the lawmaking branch of government. Chapter 760, F.S., as currently written, has been interpreted differently by various courts over the past several years with regard to the pregnancy issue.

Does the Legislature really want the courts making the laws for our state?

By enacting this legislation now, it will be clear not only to the courts, but to everyone in this state, what the Legislature intended with its passage and that discrimination against pregnant women in Florida will not be tolerated.

Mario Valle, chair, Florida Commission on Human Relations / Headline Surfer®Mario Valle chairs the Florida Commission on Human Relations. The Commission, established in 1969, is the state agency charged with administering the Florida Civil Rights Act and Fair Housing Act. Fair treatment, equal access and mutual respect are the benchmarks of the Commission's commitment. Through education and partnerships, the Commission works to prevent discrimination and costly litigation through teaching best business practices and fostering understanding amongst Floridians. For more information on events, please visit http://fchr.state.fl.us or on Facebook and Twitter.
 

Public Service Announcement from Headline Surfer®

Pregnancy Crisis Center of Daytona Beach / Headline Surfer®If you have questions about pregnancy, you can visit the Pregnncy Crisis Center of Daytona Beach, a pro-life facility located at 416 N Ridgewood Ave, Daytona Beach, FL 32114. Fo answers to your questions and for hours of operation, please call 386-257-2229.

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Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com since 2008. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed close to a hundred award-winning byline stories nearly evenly split in print and digital platforms. Frederick earned his Master of Arts in New Media Journalism with academic honors from Full Sail University in Winter Park in February 2019. He was a metro reporter with the Daytona Beach News-Journal for nearly a decade and then served as a city editor for the Taunton Daily Gazette in Taunton, Mass, while maintaining a residence in Central Florida. Prior to moving to Florida, Frederick was a metro reporter for the Rockland Journal-News in West Nyack, NY, for seven years. Headline Surfer was named the Sunshine State's top internet news site by the Florida Press Club in 2018.