911 Call Taker Was Fired for Getting My Period at Work

Alisha Coleman (bottom right) with her family: daughter Kristi, son Jerimiah and granddaughter Iyuana.

Alisha Coleman, a single mother of two with a granddaughter is not at work today. Alisha has worked hard her whole life and especially loved her job as a 911 operator until she was fired in 2016 for getting her menstrual period at the office. You read that right. She was fired for getting her period while on the job and at the office.

From the time that she was a teenager,  Alisha has juggled work, school and family responsibilities all in an effort to make the ends meet. As a young mother Alisha worked two jobs to pay the bills and provide for her daughter Kristi. Her son Jerimiah was born years later and Alisha experienced some complications during the pregnancy, she was unable to work. Once Jerimiah was born, Alisha stayed home with him for 11 months and was living on public assistance just barely scraping by. Alisha’s situation began to change for the better when she started to work as a 911 operator.

You can imagine the excitement and pride that Alisha felt as she started her new career. Alisha was now employed as a 911 call taker for the Bobby Dodd Institute, a job training, and employment agency in Fort Benning, Georgia.  Even though the job required her to take two buses just to get to work and once there she was asked to work long shifts, she absolutely loved her new job. “I’m a people person and I love to help people” Alisha stated, “I loved the job.” This new job afforded Alisha and her kids a bright future due to the fact that her new job paid her $10.26 an hour versus the minimum wage jobs she was used to working. Each year her life got a little better, finally saving enough money to buy herself a car and even start the process of house shopping in order to move her family out of the projects. “Most people just do what they can to get by, and I was trying my hardest to give my family more. I made good friends and my office became a community for me. I was there for close to 10 years“- Alisha seemed to have finally found her place in the world.

That all changed one afternoon when unexpectedly Alisha got her menstrual period at work. Alisha stated “I hadn’t been experiencing regular periods and had started to go through menopause. I had no idea my period was coming on.” Her period leaked onto a cloth chair and she immediately, despite the great embarrassment, went to her employers and informed them of what she was going through. Expecting compassion and understanding from her employer she got just the opposite. She was written up and told if it happened again that she would be fired.

One year later, even though she had taken precautions Alisha felt a leak happen once again and she ran to the restroom, but when she stood up from her desk the blood had run down her leg and onto the carpet. Before she could return from the restroom and clean up the spot a coworker had already seen the blood on the floor. The embarrassment must have been overwhelming. Alisha rushed to the cleaning supply room and retrieved bleach and disinfectant and cleaned up the accidental mess that she had made, she was sent home for the day. The next time that she reported for work she was informed that she was fired and was asked to relinquish her badge. Her employer went on to tell her that she “lacked the high standards of cleanliness” required to work there.

“When I walked out the door, I felt so numb. I was shocked and ashamed. How could this be happening? I called my daughter right away and she couldn’t believe it. This was my job, my livelihood, my joy. How was I supposed to pay my rent now?” Alisha told herself as she left her beloved job for the last time.  After losing her job of close to 10 years and humiliated, Alisha’s life began to look bleak once again.  She lost her home so she and her son Jerimiah were forced to move in with her mom and daughter. Despite all that has befallen Alisha and her family she remains faithful and dedicated to not only surviving but thriving and giving her family all that they deserve. “I always worked so hard and took such pride in my job and being able to provide for my children. But I’ve pieced together an income and I’m trying to stay positive and look into new opportunities, like pursuing my dream to go to divinity school.” 

After the initial shock wore off and Alisha began to pick up the pieces of her life she reached out and found an attorney to take her case. The attorney filed a complaint based on the grounds that Alisha was fired due sexual discrimination, but the case was dismissed. The judge said that what happened to Alisha was NOT sexual discrimination. After the ruling and Alisha’s story began to circulate, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Georgia and co-counsel Buckley Beal LLP filed a brief in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that their client, Alisha Coleman, was subjected to unlawful workplace discrimination when she was fired for experiencing a heavy period, a symptom of pre menopause.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, including “pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions.” The brief argues that the district court, which dismissed the case in February, erred in ruling that pre menopause and the associated sudden-onset heavy menstruation are not protected under Title VII.

With her appeal pending Alisha remains vigilant and faithful. “I am continuing to pursue this lawsuit because I don’t want any woman to have to go through this kind of humiliation and loss. As all women know, we simply cannot control the sudden onset of bleeding. Women cannot be punished and discriminated against because of our bodies.”

You can read Alisha’s Initial Brief of Plaintiff-Appealet here:   coleman_appeal_brief

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Sources: https://www.aclu.org/blog/womens-rights/womens-rights-workplace/i-was-fired-my-job-911-call-taker-getting-my-period-work

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