If you are being discriminated against or harassed at work because you are experiencing menopause, you are protected under federal and state employment laws. While each woman’s menopausal transition is unique, it can be accompanied by hot flashes, bladder control, sleep difficulties, vaginal health, mood changes, calcium loss, and weight gain. With all of these possible affects, working women should not have to also worry about menopause causing problems in the workplace. Today, your favorite employee’s rights lawyer will address what laws protect women workers from menopausal discrimination in the workplace. (Best Law Read: How Many Claims Can I Sue My Employer For At One Time? A Lot).
Does Title VII protect women from menopausal discrimination?
Best Gender Discrimination Lawyer Answer: Yes. “Because menopause occurs only in women, and predominantly in middle-aged women, see Oxford English Dictionary (3d ed.2001), … a comment suggesting that a woman may be menopausal singles her out on the basis of gender and age.” Cruz-Aponte v. Caribbean Petroleum Corp., 123 F. Supp. 3d 276, 280 (D.P.R. 2015).
As our employment discrimination lawyers have addressed before, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from gender discrimination and harassment at work. (Best Law Read: What Are Some Examples Of Gender Discrimination In The Workplace?). Specifically, Title VII makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate in any aspects of the employment relationship against an employee based on that employee’s gender or characteristics associated with that gender. This includes a prohibition on discrimination and harassment during recruiting, interviewing, hiring, paying and providing benefits, training, disciplining, promoting, and firing of applicants and employees. Obviously, menopause only affects women. Therefore, treating an employee less favorably because of menopause is intrinsically gender discrimination.
Although addressing menstruation, the point made by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in LeBoy v. Brennan, No. 14 C 3287, 2017 WL 2868952, at *12 (N.D. Ill. July 5, 2017), makes the point:
LeBoy has produced sufficient facts to create a material dispute as to whether she was subjected to a hostile work environment based on sex. Hurter made taunts concerning LeBoy’s menstrual cycle after LeBoy stated she could not come to work because her pelvic muscle injury was aggravated by it. Other employees saw and heard Hurter mocking LeBoy by saying that she called in sick due to her menstrual cycle and by grabbing his crotch. In the light most favorable to LeBoy, Johnson’s use of the word “Lady” was derogatory, and Naranjo made sexist comments to other employees.
Is menopause discrimination a form of age discrimination?
Best Workplace Age Discrimination Lawyer Answer: It can be. In order to prove a case of age discrimination under Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), an employee must present evidence that he or she was over the age of 40 in order to be protected. (Best Law Read: What Are Examples Of Age Discrimination In The Workplace?). While menopause is typically associated with women over the age of 45 to 50, it can start earlier as the result of treatments, medication, or naturally. A woman under the age of 40, would therefore not be able to raise a claim of age discrimination. However, for most menopausal women who are over 40 years old, menopause is typically associated with older women and discrimination based on that characteristic should trigger a claim for age discrimination.
Is menopause discrimination a form of disability discrimination?
Best Disability Discrimination Attorney Answer: It should be. There are not a lot of cases that address this point. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having a disability. (Best Law Read: Does The ADA Protect Transitory Conditions Like COVID Or A Broken Leg?; Can My Job Offer Be Pulled Because I Have A Medical Condition?). If an employee qualifies as having a disability, the ADA protects that employee from the same types of discrimination and harassment.
In Mullen v. New Balance Athletics, Inc, 2019 WL 958370, at *6 (D. Me. Feb. 27, 2019), the United States District Court for the District of Maine held on point:
Plaintiff was 35 at the time of her surgery and that following the surgery she did, in fact, experience hot flashes and mood swings. Endocrine function is a “major bodily function” and therefore a “major life activity” under the ADAAA. 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2)(B). A reasonable jury could find that an impairment to the endocrine system sufficient to place the plaintiff abruptly into menopause at the age of 35 constituted a substantial limitation on that system when compared to an average person in the population. See Hubbard v. Day & Zimmermann Hawthorne Corp., No. 3:12-CV-00681-MMD, 2015 WL 1281629, at *4-5 (D. Nev. Mar. 20, 2015) (issue of fact existed as to whether plaintiff had a disability within the meaning of the ADAAA where plaintiff testified that she experienced hormonal imbalance after her hysterectomy “that affects major life activities, including … the operation of her endocrine system”). [Footnotes and citations to the record omitted].
Importantly, even though the employee was under the age of 40, she was still able to seek protection from discrimination under the ADA.
The Court in Mullen further highlighted an important protection provided under the ADA beyond just making discrimination and harassment unlawful. In addition to being protected from wrongful termination and other acts of discrimination on the job, the ADA further requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to assist the employee to be able to do the job unless the employer demonstrates that any accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer’s business. (Best Law Read: Can My Employer Rescind My ADA Accommodation?). To that end, an “employer is obligated to provide a reasonable accommodation … where a protected employee has requested an accommodation or the employer otherwise knew that one was needed.” Murray v. Warren Pumps, LLC, 821 F.3d 77, 84 (1st Cir. 2016). Importantly, “once the employer becomes aware of the disability of an employee, he is expected to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the employee to find the best means of accommodating that disability.” Tobin v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 433 F.3d 100, 108 (1st Cir. 2005). In Mullen, the Court applied the requirement to accommodate to the facts of that case:
The Defendant claims that the Plaintiff cannot establish a failure-to-accommodate claim because she has not shown that she requested an accommodation or that she linked any such request to the “major life activity” of reproduction. The Defendant’s arguments fail. As discussed above, the Plaintiff has raised an issue of fact as to whether her hysterectomy and oophorectomies substantially limited her endocrine function. In addition, the Plaintiff has testified that she told Merry and Fisher that she had recently had a hysterectomy, that “what comes with having a hysterectomy, is early menopause,” and that her doctor had told her she would have hot flashes and become emotional for years after her hysterectomy. The Plaintiff has further testified that she “kept telling the HR managers that she just needed to be able to wash her face and go back to work,” and that during her conversation with human resources, “I said, if somebody would have just let me go to the bathroom and wipe my face, I would have been fine.” A reasonable jury could conclude from this evidence that the Plaintiff put the Defendant on notice that she had a disability which had caused her emotional outburst, and that her statements about being allowed to “wash her face and go back to work” were an effort to open a conversation into how to accommodate that disability. See Erickson v. Bd. of Govs. of Ne. Ill. Univ., No. 95 C 2541, 1997 WL 548030, at *6 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 2, 1997) (“[W]hen confronted with [Plaintiff’s] insubordinate outburst the University had a responsibility under the ADA to take the small step of sitting down and talking about the situation, assuming the outburst was known to be a product of Plaintiff’s disability.”). The Defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the Plaintiff’s failure-to-accommodate claims is denied. [Id. at *7, citations to the record omitted].
What should I do if my manager harassed me because I am going through menopause?
Best Wrongful Termination Law Firm Answer: If your boss, manager, supervisor, or even the owner of the company starts harassing you or even wrongfully fires you because you are menopausal, know that you have rights. Beyond being none of his or her business, discrimination or harassment based on being in menopause is illegal. If you are Googling the web for “I need a lawyer because I have been wrongfully fired or terminated;” or “I have been discriminated against or harassed based on my …” gender, age, or disability; or even think that you might need an employment lawyer, then it would be best to call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. (Read: What is the Spitz No Fee Guarantee?) Call our lawyers in Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, Cincinnati, Detroit, and Raleigh to get help now. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm and its experienced attorneys are dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.
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