911 Dispatcher Alleges She Was Fired For Her 'Heavy Menstrual Flow'

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The ACLU is retrying a workplace discrimination case in which a woman alleged she lost her job over sudden, heavy periods due to pre-menopause.

Woman wearing dispatch headphones works at desk and computer.

A woman in Fort Benning, Georgia, allegedly lost her beloved job over an "accidental period leak." 

Alisha Coleman claims she was fired from her nearly decade-long position at a 911 call center after "experiencing two incidents of sudden onset, heavy menstrual flow.”

“I loved my job at the 911 call center because I got to help people,” Coleman said in a statement. “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.”

When her case was dismissed by a district court, the ACLU took over and is now suing the dispatch center at the Bobby Dodd Institute for unlawful workplace discrimination, reported HuffPost

The ACLU claims the court that initially rejected Coleman's case did not uphold the law, as periods are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the famous legislation that prohibits workplace discrimination based on sex.

In August 2015, Coleman was surprised with a particularly heavy flow and accidentally leaked blood onto her desk chair. She was dismissed by her supervisor and asked to change clothes, then given a formal disciplinary write-up a few days later with the warning that "she would be fired if she ever soiled another chair from sudden onset menstrual flow."

It certainly scared Coleman, but fear doesn't stop a period, at least not like that.

Approximately a year later, when Coleman stood up from her desk, a bit of menstrual blood leaked onto the carpet. She was once again dismissed from work for the day, but this time when she returned she was fired.

"The stated reason for her termination was her alleged failure to ‘practice high standards of personal hygiene and maintain a clean, neat appearance while on duty,’” states the ACLU brief, but Coleman insists that her heavy flow was a startling consequence of pre-menopause and that she could not control it.

It's a feeling many women know all too well, and the thought that they could be fired for something that's mostly beyond their control is alarming.

“Employers have no business policing women’s bodies or their menstrual cycles,” said Andrea Young, executive director of ACLU Georgia 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 under federal law. We’re fighting back.”

Banner and thumbnail credit: Wikimedia Commons user Stilfehler

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