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Workplace Rights

The workplace is where most adults spend roughly half their waking hours.  The ACLU is committed to protecting basic rights of employees in the workplace, and has a long history promoting those rights through legislation, litigation and public advocacy.

Workplace Rights in the News

  • Nov, 21, 2016: ACLU Sues Fire District Over Sex-Discriminatory Firings
  • Feb, 17, 2016: RI Supreme Court Adopts Breastfeeding Accommodations at Urging of Advocates, Attorneys
  • Jan, 11, 2016: ACLU Files Second Charge of Sex Discrimination Against Harmony Fire District

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Workplace Rights Related Court Cases

2016: Discrimination Complaints Against The Harmony Fire District
Category: Active Case    Discrimination    Gender Discrimination    Women's Rights    Workplace Rights    

The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island has filed two charges of sex discrimination against the Harmony Fire District on behalf of two female EMT/firefighter who were terminated from their jobs after they and several others raised concerns that male and female firefighters were being treated differently. The charges, filed with the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, are on behalf of Kimberly Perreault, who served as an EMT/firefighter for the Harmony Fire District for 12 years, and Linda Ferragamo, an EMT/firefighter at the department for more than a decade. 

Ms. Perreault was terminated in January 2015 for purportedly being “unhappy” with the fire department and Ms Ferragamo was terminated in August 2015 after raising concerns about gender discrimination. None of the male firefighters who raised concerns about equal treatment of male and female employees have been disciplined or terminated. 

2014: Callaghan v. Darlington Fabrics Corporation
Category: Active Case    Discrimination    Medical Marijuana    The "War on Drugs"    Workplace Rights    

“I just want Darlington and other companies in Rhode Island to treat me and other licensed patients the same way they would treat any other employee with a chronic health condition who is taking medication, as the law requires.”- Christine Callaghan, URI graduate student and registered medical marijuana user

This ACLU lawsuit is on behalf of a URI graduate student who was denied summer employment as a paid intern at Darlington Fabrics in Westerly because of her status as a registered medical marijuana user.

Christine Callaghan, a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design who is studying textiles and working towards a masters’ degree in that field at URI. She has participated in the medical marijuana program for almost two years to deal with frequent, debilitating migraine headaches. Callaghan was prepared to start a paid internship in July, which would also be for class credit, at Darlington Fabrics. During an interview with a person in the company’s human resources department, Callaghan disclosed her medical condition and status as a cardholder under the state’s medical marijuana program. She explained that she would not bring medical marijuana onto the premises or come to work after having taken marijuana.

Nonetheless, the company withdrew the paid internship after finding out about her medical status. As a result of not being hired, the lawsuit argues, Callaghan “was unable to find replacement summer employment, lost the benefit of a major networking opportunity with one of the only companies left in Rhode Island in her field, lost important and unique experience that Defendants were offering, was forced to disclose her medical marijuana status to her professors, and her ability to graduate on time was placed into jeopardy as a result of having to try to find another internship at the last minute.”

The lawsuit argues that “a potential employer’s failure to hire a medical marijuana patient because of, or related to, his or her status as a medical marijuana user and/or cardholder” constitutes disability discrimination in violation of the RI Civil Rights Act, and also violates the medical marijuana law, which protects cardholders from discrimination in employment. The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages and other appropriate relief “to make the Plaintiff whole.”

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