In 2016, Alisha Coleman was working as a 911 call taker for the Bobby Dodd Institute in Fort Benning, Georgia; it was a job she had held for nearly a decade before being fired. The reason? Having a heavy period.
Coleman’s story is back in the headlines of late because the ACLU has taken up her case and is helping her sue her previous employer for workplace discrimination.
As Coleman describes, “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.”
Laying out the case, Coleman (and the ACLU) claim she was unlawfully fired for experiencing a heavy period, a symptom of pre-menopause. Specifically two bleeding incidents.
The first incident happened in August of 2015, when Coleman accidentally leaked blood onto her office chair. She was told by her manager to leave work and change her clothes. A few days later, she was given a disciplinary writeup warning, “that she would be fired if she ever soiled another chair from sudden onset menstrual flow.”
The second incident occurred in April of 2016. Coleman got up from her desk to use the restroom and leaked onto the carpet. She was relieved from work and then, a few days later, she was fired.
The stated reason for her firing was failure to “practice high standards of personal hygiene and maintain a clean, neat appearance while on duty.”
She sued for discrimination and the case was dismissed, but this month, the ACLU announced they would take up the case and defend Alisha Coleman. The organization says her firing was a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, which includes “pregnancy, childbirth and related conditions.” They will argue that periods and side-effects of pre-menopause are protected therein.
“Employers have no business policing women’s bodies or their menstrual cycles,” Andrea Young, ACLU of Georgia executive director, said in the ACLU 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 under federal law. We’re fighting back.”
Fight on, Alisha. We are with you.