I love to work and have been working nearly all of my life. I’m not working now because I was fired from the job I loved for getting my menstrual period at the office.
You read that right. I was fired from my job because I got my period at work.
I have always worked hard and taken pride in the job I do. From the time I was a teenager, I managed to juggle school work and a part time job to help my family make ends meet. As a young mom, I worked two jobs to pay the bills and provide for my daughter.
My son was born years later and because I experienced some complications during my pregnancy, I couldn’t work. Once Jerimiah was born, I stayed home to take care of him for 11 months. We were living on public assistance at the time, barely making ends meet, but that all began to change when I started working as a 911 call taker.
When I got the job, I was so excited because I had been out of work and I would be earning more than minimum wage at $10.26 an hour. I would also be doing secretarial work which I really enjoy. I had to take two buses to get to work and worked long shifts, but it was worth it because I loved the job — I’m a people person and I love to help people.
Each year, I was able to do a little bit more. I finally saved enough money to buy a car, and after one year on the job, I started looking for a house so we could move out of the projects. Most people just do what they can to get by, and I was trying my hardest to give my family more. I made good friends and my office became a community for me. I was there for close to 10 years, and if they hadn’t fired me, I would still be there.
Before I was fired, I hadn’t been experiencing regular periods and had started to go through menopause. I had no idea my period was coming on. The first time, it leaked onto a cloth chair, I had told my employers what I was going through, but I was still written up and told I’d be fired if it happened again. The second time, about a year later, it was just as unexpected, even though I’d tried to take precautions. I felt the leak happen and tried to run to the bathroom, but when I stood up from my desk the blood ran down my leg and onto the carpet. Before I could come back to clean it, someone had already seen the blood on the floor. It was so embarrassing.
Even though I rushed to clean the spot with bleach and disinfectant, I was sent home. The next time I reported for work, they told me I was fired and asked for my badge. They told me I lacked high standards of cleanliness. I never heard anyone get fired for anything like that before.
When I walked out the door, I felt so numb. I was shocked and ashamed. How could this be happening? I called my daughter right away and she couldn’t believe it. This was my job, my livelihood, my joy. How was I supposed to pay my rent now?
To add injury to insult, it was the last period I ever had.
Being unemployed again after nine years has been a struggle. My son and I had to move out of our house and go live with my mom and my daughter. And I felt so humiliated. I always worked so hard and took such pride in my job and being able to provide for my children. But I’ve pieced together an income and I’m trying to stay positive and look into new opportunities, like pursuing my dream to go to divinity school.
After the initial shock wore off, I found a lawyer to take my case, but the case was dismissed -- the judge said what happened to me was not sex discrimination. Luckily, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Georgia have taken the case on appeal. I am continuing to pursue this lawsuit because I don’t want any woman to have to go through this kind of humiliation and loss. As all women know, we simply cannot control the sudden onset of bleeding. Women cannot be punished and discriminated against because of our bodies.