Pregnancy Discrimination Case Comes Before State Supreme Court

Affiliate: ACLU of Connecticut
February 11, 2002 12:00 am

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HARTFORD-The Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union today filed a friend-of the-court brief in a case that examines the grounds for wrongful dismissal in a private employment setting. The Connecticut Supreme Court today will hear arguments on whether protections against pregnancy discrimination should be extended to employees of small companies with fewer than three employees.

Nicole Ann Thibodeau, plaintiff in the case, Thibodeau v. Design Group One Architects, claimed pregnancy discrimination when she was terminated from her position at a small architecture firm. Fearing that she could not seek relief through Connecticut’s pregnancy discrimination law because of the size of her former employer’s business, attorneys for Thibodeau instead claimed that the state’s general “public policy” against gender discrimination and pregnancy discrimination provided adequate protections.

“The ACLU Women’s Rights Project has been a leader in the efforts to eliminate the barriers to women’s full equality in American society,” said Lenora Lapidus, Director of the Women’s Rights Project. “Accordingly, we have long targeted pregnancy discrimination as a part of our efforts to combat the stereotyped decision-making that limits women’s opportunities and to ensure women’s equal treatment in the workplace.”

A lower court ruled that Thibodeau’s dismissal was based in whole or in part on her pregnancy and therefore in violation of the state Constitution. The Connecticut courts have previously recognized similar “public policy” grounds to protect Connecticut workers from wrongful dismissal. The defendants subsequently appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court.

The case has attracted a great deal of interest, with separate friend-of-the-court briefs from the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union, the Connecticut Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, the Plaintiffs’ Employment Lawyers Association, the Connecticut Women’s Education & Legal Fund, and the Connecticut Business and Industries Association.

“”The ACLU WRP played an important role in fighting discriminatory policies that forced flight attendants off the job as soon as they became pregnant, and we are currently challenging policies that force pregnant police officers out of their jobs. This case seeks to ensure that the prohibitions against pregnancy discrimination apply to all women in the workforce,” Lapidus added.

The plaintiff is represented by attorneys Gary Phelan and Elaine Rubinson.

Please click here to see a copy of the amicus brief filed by the Women’s Rights Project and the CCLU.

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