Getting your period is unpleasant enough without losing your job over it, but that’s exactly what happened to Alicia Coleman, who was fired from her job after experiencing two period leaks. The former 911-call taker then sued her former employer and that case was dismissed earlier this year. But the American Civil Liberties Union has now stepped in to appeal the case. The organization announced Thursday that it had filed a brief on her behalf in federal court Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 14.
According to the document, Coleman was working at a job training and employment agency for people with disabilities, when she experienced two period leaks in 2015. She was going through pre-menopause at the time and experienced sudden onset, heavy menstrual flow. After her first leak, she was told, “she would be fired if she ever soiled another chair from sudden onset menstrual flow.” After the second, she was fired for failing to “practice high standards of personal hygiene and maintain a clean, neat appearance while on duty.”
“I loved my job at the 911 call center because I got to help people,” Coleman said in a statement released by the 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 the first court case, it was ruled that pre-menopause was not a condition protected from discrimination under the law (specifically Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits workplace discrimination based sex, including “pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions”), but Coleman and the ACLU are appealing the decision.
“Employers have no business policing women’s bodies or their menstrual cycles,” Andrea Young, ACLU of George executive director, said in a statement. “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 in federal law. We’re fighting back.”