Woman's civil suit spurs bill

February 06, 1994|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

Legislation that would prohibit on-the-job discrimination against women who are pregnant or have an abortion has been introduced in the state General Assembly.

Sponsors of the bill say the legislation was prompted by a Howard County civil suit filed two months ago by a woman who contends her former bosses fired her from a job as a hair stylist at their Columbia salon because she had an abortion.

"I think that it's inappropriate that employers should be engaging in that," said the bill's chief sponsor, Del. Gilbert J. Genn, a Montgomery County Democrat.

The legislation was introduced in the House of Delegates on Thursday, the last day to file new bills for this year's legislative session.

The bill, if approved by the Assembly, would amend Maryland's human relations law, which already prohibits discrimination based on age, sex, race or religion.

The bill also would protect employees who counsel others about continuing a pregnancy or having an abortion, Mr. Genn said.

Mr. Genn, of Bethesda, noted that federal laws already prohibit on-the-job discrimination against pregnant women or those who have an abortion.

The delegate acknowledged that many controversial bills take more than one session to win passage in the General Assembly.

But Mr. Genn and the bill's co-sponsor, Del. Samuel I. "Sandy" Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat, said they hope to achieve passage of the legislation by addressing both sides of the abortion issue.

"It does deal with a potentially controversial subject," Mr. Genn said. "I would hope that people recognize that it applies to both sides of the issue equally."

Mr. Genn said he expects the bill to be scheduled for a hearing before the Judiciary Committee, of which he is a member. A companion bill in the Senate has not been introduced.

David Shapiro, a Baltimore attorney representing the woman fired from the hair salon, welcomed the bill.

"I'm very pleased to hear that some members of the legislature are interested in this issue, albeit too late for my client," Mr. Shapiro said.

Mr. Shapiro said if his client's case goes to trial, he may use the legislation as evidence to show changes in Maryland's laws regarding discrimination and abortion.

He added that the bill is a step toward his client's goal of preventing other women from experiencing discrimination.

In the lawsuit, filed in December, Robin Flanigan of Baltimore County is seeking nearly $4 million in damages from Robin George Davidson and his wife, Patrice Davidson, who operate Revelations in Hair Design in Columbia.

Ms. Flanigan contends in court papers that she was fired in December 1990, five days after she had an abortion over the Davidsons' objections.

The Davidsons, however, deny that they fired Ms. Flanigan because she had an abortion.

They said they fired the woman because she could no longer function on the job, becoming disruptive and uncooperative after having the abortion.

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