Women and Justice: Keywords


Sex Discrimination Act of 1984 (2017)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Section 5 prohibits sex discrimination. The Act specifies that a person has committed sex discrimination if they treat someone less favorably because of their sex. Section 6 further prohibits discrimination based on marital or relationship status and section 7 prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy or potential pregnancy. Further, section 7AA prohibits breastfeeding discrimination . Moreover, section 7B deals with indirect discrimination and specifies that if an imposition of a condition, requirement, or practice has or is likely to have the disadvantaged effect, it is only allowed if such condition, requirement or practice is reasonable. Finally, pursuant to section 7D a person may take special measures for the purpose of achieving substantive equality. Such measures are not discriminatory.

International Case Law

Brooks v. Canada Safeway Ltd. Supreme Court of Canada (1989)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Three female Safeway employees filed a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission stating that the company plan discriminated based on sex and family status by denying benefits for loss of pay due to accident or sickness during a 17-week period during pregnancy (even if the accident or sickness at issue was unrelated to the pregnancy). The Commission’s adjudicator dismissed the claims, and this decision was upheld by the Court of the Queen’s Bench and the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court of Canada decided that Safeway’s plan did discriminate against pregnant women. Noting that “it cannot be said that discrimination is not proven unless all members of a particular class are equally affected,” the Supreme Court of Canada determined Safeway discriminated against the employees on the basis of sex under the Manitoba Human Rights Act.

Domestic Case Law

Badih v. Myers California Court of Appeal (1995)

Gender discrimination

In 1987, Fatmeh Badih (“Badih”), a recent immigrant from Sierra Leone, was hired by the medical offices of Dr. Leonard Myers (“Myers”) as a medical assistant. Almost three years later, Badih told Myers she was pregnant. He immediately fired her. According to Badih, when she told Myers the news he replied, “If you told me you were going to get married and have babies, I wouldn’t have hired you in the first place. I need an office girl when I need her, not a person that has responsibilities the way you do now. . . . You’re going to have to go.” Badih filed a compliant against Myers and alleged pregnancy discrimination, among other claims. Myers denied that he fired Badih because she was pregnant. The jury found that Myers had terminated Badih because of her pregnancy, awarded her $20,226 in damages, and granted Badih’s motion for attorney fees. Myers appealed the judgment and attorney fees order. He argued that because he employed less than five people he was not subject to the pregnancy discrimination provisions of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). He also argued that no other constitutional or statutory provisions prohibited pregnancy discrimination. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgment and attorney fees order. It held that pregnancy discrimination in employment was a form of sex discrimination. Because article I, section 8 of the California Constitution prohibits sex discrimination in employment regardless of the employer’s size, those who work for employers not covered by FEHA can maintain pregnancy discrimination claims under the California Constitution.