Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

Public Safety (Isolated Thesis Docket XVI.1o.A.115 A (10a.)) First Collegiate Tribunal in Administrative Matters of the Sixteeth Circuit (2016)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, International law

This isolated thesis is a relevant example of gender perspective case law, as the criteria issued by the collegiate tribunal is binding on all cases resolved by such tribunal. In addition, such criteria may be persuasive in similar cases arising in other federal courts. The Mexican Supreme Court has previously determined the social benefits to which a former public safety employee is entitled at the time of her termination. The social benefits and salary must be paid upon termination and must account for both the period before and after an unjustified termination for pregnancy. The Mexican Constitution (Article 123, section B, item XI, subparagraphs (a) & (c)) recognizes the rights of pregnant women. These include social benefits during pregnancy. Consequently, the impairment that results from the termination must be paid and includes: (a) medical bills and payments made to private medical institutions due to the lack of social security benefits and (b) the payment of the full salary from the last month before birth as well as the two months after it, unless there is a court ruling in relation to unpaid wages. This provision of the Mexican Constitution, as well as other provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment And Eradication Of Violence Against Women “Convention of Belém do Pará” compels the courts to rule with a gender perspective in order to ensure justice for this historically vulnerable social group. (Amparo Directo Administrativo 121/2016: http://sise.cjf.gob.mx/SVP/word1.aspx?arch=1320/13200000186095880003003....)

 

Esta tesis aislada es un ejemplo relevante de la jurisprudencia de la perspectiva de género, ya que los criterios emitidos por el tribunal colegiado son relevantes a todos los casos resueltos por dicho tribunal. Además, dichos criterios pueden ser persuasivos en casos similares que surjan en otros tribunales federales. La Corte Suprema de México ha determinado previamente los beneficios sociales a los que tiene derecho un ex-empleado de seguridad pública en el momento de su despido. Los beneficios sociales y el salario deben pagarse a la terminación y deben tener en cuenta tanto el período antes como el de después de una terminación injustificada por embarazo. La Constitución mexicana (Artículo 123, sección B, artículo XI, subpárrafos (a) y (c)) reconoce los derechos de las mujeres embarazadas. Estos incluyen beneficios sociales durante el embarazo. En consecuencia, el deterioro que resulta de la terminación debe pagarse e incluye: (a) facturas médicas y pagos realizados a instituciones médicas privadas debido a la falta de beneficios de seguridad social y (b) el pago del salario completo del último mes anterior al nacimiento, así como los dos meses posteriores al mismo, a menos que exista un fallo judicial en relación con los salarios impagos. Esta disposición de la Constitución mexicana, así como otras disposiciones de la Convención sobre la Eliminación de Todas las Formas de Discriminación contra la Mujer (CEDAW) y la Convención Interamericana para Prevenir, Sancionar y Erradicar la Violencia contra la Mujer "Convención de Belém do Pará" obliga a los tribunales a gobernar con una perspectiva de género para garantizar la justicia para este grupo social históricamente vulnerable.



Sentencia TC/0070/15 Constitutional Court (2015)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Gender discrimination

Mrs. Angela Merici Mendoza Minier challenged the constitutionality of Article 35 of Law number 1306-Bis published on May 21st, 1937, which provided that a divorced woman could not marry within 10 months after the divorce. Mrs. Angela argued that Article 35 contravened the gender equality provision provided in Article 39 of the Constitution because the 10-month waiting period to remarry did not apply to men. Article 35 thus conferred a privilege only to men. The attorney-general disregarded the action on the basis that the petitioner lacked legitimate interest. However, the Constitutional Court determined that as a woman, Mrs. Angela could be affected by Article 35 and ruled that she therefore had a legitimate interest in challenging Article 35. The Constitutional Court subsequently admitted the action and nullified Article 35 on the basis that it no longer fulfilled its aim to prevent a woman from remarrying when already pregnant with her former husband’s child because it could have negative consequences for the child or the newly formed couple. As technology now allows women to know their state of pregnancy at an early stage, the restriction is no longer needed. Moreover, the Constitutional Court acknowledged that it is a woman’s decision to remarry, pregnant or not. 

La Sra. Angela Merici Mendoza Minier desafió la constitucionalidad del artículo 35 de la Ley número 1306-Bis publicada el 21 de mayo de 1937, la cuál establecía que una mujer divorciada no podría casarse por un período de 10 meses posteriormente a un divorcio. La Sra. Angela sostuvo que el artículo 35 era contrario a la disposición de igualdad de género garantizada en el artículo 39 de la Constitución porque el período de espera de 10 meses para volver a casarse no se aplicaba a los hombres. Ella propuso que el artículo 35 confería un privilegio único a los hombres. El fiscal general ignoró la acción basándose en que la peticionaria no tenía un interés legítimo en la acción. Sin embargo, el Tribunal Constitucional determinó que, como mujer, la Sra. Angela podría verse afectada por el artículo 35 y dictaminó que, por lo tanto, esto era un interés legítimo suficiente para impugnar el artículo 35. Posteriormente, el Tribunal Constitucional admitió la acción y anuló el artículo 35 sobre la base de que no cumplía su objetivo inicial de evitar que una mujer se volviera a casar mientras ya estaba embarazada con el hijo de su ex esposo, lo cual podría tener consecuencias negativas para el niño o para la pareja recién formada. Como la tecnología ahora permite a las mujeres conocer su estado de embarazo desde una etapa temprana, dicha restricción ya no es necesaria. Además, el Tribunal Constitucional agregó que es una decisión personal de la mujer volver a casarse, embarazada o no.



X. v. X. Cour du Travail de Bruxelles (2017)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

In November 2011, the applicant became pregnant and in February 2012 she was dismissed as part of a restructuring procedure in which 20% of employees were laid-off. She argued that the termination of her contract was due to her pregnancy. The Labor Court ruled in her favor and ordered the company to pay her an indemnity and to bear the costs of the legal proceedings because it failed to prove that the dismissal of the pregnant woman was based on reasons unrelated to her state of pregnancy.



H.N. v. E.Y.A. Labor Court of Brussels (2015)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

On appeal of a judgment of a lower court, the Labor Court ruled that the protection of women from being fired by an employer for reasons related to their pregnancy (including pregnancy-related absences/illnesses) also applies during the trial period, regardless of legislation permitting employers to fire employees during their trial period when absent for a period exceeding seven days.  As a result, a pregnant employee may only be fired during the pregnancy-related protection period (i.e., from the moment the employer is notified of the pregnancy until one month following the legal post-natal maternity leave) if the employer can prove that the laying-off is due to reasons unrelated to the pregnancy. In case of doubt, the court will rule in favor of the employee.



Jumbo v. Banja La Mtsogolo Industrial Relations Court of Malawi (2002)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

The applicant, Salome Jumbo, claimed she was dismissed as a result of her pregnancy. In 1999, the applicant started as a temporary nurse aid at a clinic and continued in that position until 2001. In 2001, the manager of the clinic assured the applicant that her job had become permanent. On April 4, 2001, the manager discovered that the applicant was pregnant. He immediately warned the applicant that he would not allow her to keep her job if she remained pregnant, as they wanted a permanent nurse aid. The manager also enquired into the applicant’s private affairs and made inappropriate sexual remarks. On June 1, 2001, the manager terminated the applicant’s employment explicitly informing her that her termination was due to her pregnancy. The applicant asked for a reference letter, but the manager refused saying that she was a temporary employee and did not deserve one. The Industrial Relations Court of Malawi (the “Court”) ruled that the termination was contrary to the spirit of the Employment Act and ordered that the clinic immediately re-instate the applicant. The Court found that the respondent specifically violated the applicant’s rights under §31(1) of the Employment Act, which requires employers to provide a reference if the employee requests one on termination of an employment contract.  In addition, the respondent violated § 49 (1) of the Employment Act, which dictates that “terminating a woman’s employment because of pregnancy amount[s] to an offence [that is] punishable with a fine of K20,000 and imprisonment of five years” (p. 3). The Court also found that the manager’s inquiries into the applicant’s private affairs with her husband amounted to sexual harassment. This case is notable in Malawi because it set the precedent that inquiring into a married woman’s private affairs with her husband is an unfair labor practice.



Mwanza v. World Vision Malawi Industrial Relations Court of Malawi (2006)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The respondent employed the applicant on a fixed term contract as a data entry clerk. The applicant’s contract term was four years expiring on January 10, 2005. However, the respondent terminated her on December 22, 2003. The reason given for her termination was that she had become pregnant out of wedlock. The applicant challenged the dismissal and took legal action against the respondent. The respondent conceded that the reason for termination was invalid and asked the court to decide on a remedy. The applicant asked for reinstatement as the remedy. The Industrial Relations Court of Malawi (the “Court”) found that reinstatement was an inappropriate remedy because the applicant’s fixed contract had already lapsed in time. Instead, the Court awarded the applicant compensation for the employment benefits lost between the effective date of her termination (March 22, 2004) and the expiration of her contract (January 10, 2005). The Court cited § 63 (4) of Malawi’s Employment Act, which “provides that compensation shall be just and equitable” (p. 2). The Court awarded additional compensation to the applicant pursuant to §§ 63(5)(d), 57(3) and 49 of the Employment Act. Section 57(3) “prohibits discrimination on the basis of one’s sex, marital status or other status;” whereas, § 49 prohibits “dismissal on grounds of pregnancy (p. 3).”



Neera Mathur v. Life Insurance Corporation of India (1991)

Employment discrimination

Mrs. Neera Mathur had applied to work at Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC). Upon clearing the written test and the interview, she was asked to fill a declaration form disclosing personal facts as to pregnancy (if any) and her menstrual cycle. Further, she was required to undergo a medical examination as prescribed by LIC. She submitted her declaration and also underwent a medical examination and was certified as being fit for the job. Thereafter, her training program commenced and on its completion, she received an appointment letter with the stipulation that she would be on probation for the first six months and her appointment would be confirmed subject to her performance being satisfactory. During her probation she applied for maternity leave which was granted. On her return to service she was discharged from employment on the grounds that her service was not satisfactory and that she had failed to disclose personal facts as to her pregnancy and menstruation in her declaration form. Mrs. Mathur appealed to the Supreme Court on the grounds that her right to equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution had been violated by the arbitrary order of discharge. The Supreme Court ordered LIC to re-instate Mrs. Mathur and set aside the order of discharge on the grounds that there was no evidence to prove that her performance was unsatisfactory and the only reason for termination was her failure to disclose personal facts in her declaration that are not required to be disclosed to an employer. The Court stated that while India is moving forward to achieve the constitutional guarantee of equal rights for women, LIC seemed not to be moving with time. It further recommended that LIC delete such requirements from its declaration form and made a note of the fact that if one indirectly seeks to evade providing maternity leave and benefits to a female candidate by not hiring her if she is pregnant at the time of entering the service, the same may be open to a constitutional challenge.



Gonzales v. Marriott United States District Court for the Central District of California (2015)

Employment discrimination

Plaintiff Gonzales was a full-time accountant for the Los Angeles Airport Marriott when she arranged to be a gestational surrogate, due to give birth in April 2014. When the child was born, Plaintiff used her three work breaks to pump breast milk and send it to the child’s family. After two weeks of shipping the milk to the family, Plaintiff continued to lactate for personal health reasons and donated the milk to women’s organizations for mothers who could not breastfeed. Marriot then discontinued her two extra breaks arguing that she was not disabled and not feeding a child at home. Plaintiff sued claiming disparate treatment, sex stereotyping, and failure to make reasonable accommodation to for a condition related to pregnancy. Marriott motioned to dismiss, and the court found that there was a question of fact as to all claims such that the motion to dismiss was denied in whole.



Mejia v. Catholic Charities of the Archdioceses of Chicago United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (2015)

Employment discrimination

Plaintiff worked for Defendant when she became pregnant with a high-risk pregnancy. Plaintiff told supervisor that she was not strong enough to endure the pregnancy and had several dangerous near-miscarriages. Plaintiff was shortly demoted to a position which included manual labor. After work-related anxiety attacks, she prematurely delivered a son. Plaintiff brought claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, gender discrimination, and pregnancy-related retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as a negligence claim on behalf of her son. Defendant moved to dismiss the claims brought on behalf of Plaintiff’s son. The court determined that children have a right to be born free of prenatal injuries which a breach of duty on the mother’s behalf could foreseeably cause and that a child has a right to recover for injuries obtained prenatally from the negligence of another. Accordingly, the court denied the motion to dismiss.



Case No. 48/2010 Denmark Supreme Court (2012)

Employment discrimination

The plaintiff was employed as a social and health care assistant, but was dismissed from her job after approximately one month due to excessive sickness absence. At the time she was dismissed, the employee was pregnant and submitted a claim to her former employee requesting compensation corresponding to six months’ pay because her dismissal violated the Danish Act on Equal Treatment of Men and Women. The Supreme Court agreed and held that the former employee should be awarded her six months’ pay and further found that the right not to be dismissed due to pregnancy-related absence covers situations where an employer was neither aware nor should have been aware of the pregnancy at the time of the dismissal.



Kelley Co., Inc. v. Marquardt Wisconsin Supreme Court (1992)

Gender discrimination

Plaintiff Marquardt took eight weeks off for maternity leave and vacation.  During that time, her supervisor reorganized the division in which she worked and redefined her responsibilities.  He did not inform her of these changes.  Included in the reorganization was the elimination of plaintiff’s position as credit manager.  The position was divided into two positions, and Marquardt’s supervisory responsibilities decreased.  Her new position also involved 25% clerical work, whereas in her old position, she had no clerical work.  She received the same pay and benefits and had the same office as her prior position.  The Court found that the plaintiff in this case was not returned to her equivalent employment position after her return from maternity leave, which is required under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  It held that although an employer may reorganize a department while an employee is on leave, and give an employee new job duties, it must still give the employee equivalent job duties.  An equivalent employment position “means a position with equivalent compensation, benefits, working shift, hours of employment, job status, responsibility and authority.”  It also held that the plaintiff was properly awarded back pay and that plaintiff’s “interim earnings and amounts earnable with reasonable diligence should be considered when back pay is awarded under the FMLA.”



Madam F v SA Schenk Labour Court of Appeal Brussels (2009)

Gender discrimination

A female employee was dismissed with severance pay due to a period of incapacity resulting from two consecutive miscarriages.  In the circumstances of the case, it was not possible to apply article 40 (protection against dismissal for pregnant women) of the Labour Law of 16 March 1971, because the employer was not informed of the pregnancy. However, because the dismissal followed right after the second miscarriage, the female employee was discriminated against based on her sex.  This was not refuted by the employer. Given the timing of the events and the timing of the termination of the employment relationship, the dismissal violated the law of 7 May 1991 on equal treatment for men and women with regard to working conditions, access to employment, and promotion, access to independent professions and supplementary social security schemes. This law does not provide for a fixed amount of damages. The moral damages were estimated at EUR 5,000.



KKO 1992:7 Supreme Court of Finland (1992)

Gender discrimination

The issue here was whether the employer company was guilty of discrimination in working life. Marja-Liisa Laukkanen had been working at Oy Kolmeks Ab. During her four months trial period, she got pregnant on which she informed her employer. Soon after that, she was dismissed on the grounds that she was on her trial period. Ms. Laukkanen claimed that her pregnancy was the ground for the dismissal which was against Section 8 of the Finnish Equality Act (609/1986, as amended) (the "Equality Act") on the basis of discrimination in work life.  In addition, Ms. Laukkanen claimed that the dismissal was against Section 3 of the Old Finnish Employment Contracts Act (320/1970, as amended) (the "Old Employment Contracts Act"), which states that employment cannot be revoked on inappropriate grounds. The District Court ruled against Ms. Laaukkanen but the Court of Appeals reversed.  It held that the dismissal of Marja-Liisa Laukkanen was against both the Old Employment Contracts Act and the Equality Act and ordered the company to pay damages. The grounds for the Court of Appeals' decision were that, when the employer and Ms. Laukkanen had negotiated on the employment, the employer had had significant interest on the fact if Laukkanen was planning to get pregnant. Further, the company had not been able to prove that Ms. Laukkanen had started neglecting her work duties as soon as she had found out about her pregnancy. The Supreme Court agreed with the opinion of the Court of Appeals and held that the dismissal violated Section 3 of the Old Employment Contracts Act. However, it did not consider the dismissal to be against the Equality Act because, according to the government proposal (57/1985) for the Equality Act, discrimination in working life only means discrimination based on the gender and, therefore, gender has to be the immediate reason behind the dismissal.