This Woman’s Menstrual Issues Got Her Fired—but Is That Legal?

Photo: Stocksy / Natalie Jeffcott
We've all been there. One second you're minding your own business, and the next you're trying your best to casually shimmy to the bathroom without anyone noticing the bright red stain on your pants. (Or, alternatively, you go with it and become a marathon-running she-ro.) But unfortunately for one woman, a surprise period leak cost her a job, according to a legal brief filed by the ACLU.

Alisha Coleman was working as a 911 operator in Fort Benning, GA, for nearly a decade when she was shamed for having two heavy period leaks, a symptom of pre-menopause. Because of the "sudden onset, heavy menstrual flow," her company fired her, according to the ACLU.

"Being fired for unexpectedly getting your period at work is the very essence of sex discrimination.”

“I loved my job at the 911 call center because I got to help people,” Coleman says in a press release. “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."

While Coleman's case was dismissed in district court last February, a brief was recently filed with the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals by the ACLU and co-counsel Buckley Beal LLP to make sure the world knows a big mistake was made.

Because Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits workplace discrimination—including anything on the basis of someone's sex—they're arguing that pre-menopause and heavy menstruation are protected and no one should be fired for, well, being a woman.

"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,” said Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney at the Women’s Rights Project of the ACLU. “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.”

And there's more menstrual-related activism happening right now: Have you heard about the tampon tax? Here's how "the Wonder Woman of menstrual realness" is shaking things up.

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