The ACLU of Rhode Island and Women's Rights / Freedom from Sex Discrimination


Protecting Civil Liberties in Rhode Island for Over 50 Years

Court Cases

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The ACLU of Rhode Island and Freedom from Sex Discrimination

Discrimination on the basis of gender has been all-too-common in Rhode Island in a variety of settings -- in school, on the baseball field, and even in the courthouse. The R.I. ACLU has played an important role in eliminating many vestiges of sex discrimination, as the sample cases below demonstrate:

2018: Borrelli v. Premier Entertainment II, LLC.

Category: Active Case  Civil Rights  Discrimination  Gender Discrimination  Women's Rights  Workplace Rights  

About This Case:
This is a sex and age discrimination lawsuit against the Newport Grand Casino on behalf of Paula Borrelli, a female employee, who claims that, for a decade, she has been paid significantly less than a younger male employee performing the same duties in the same position.

Current Status:
Lawsuit filed in July 2018.

ACLU Cooperating Attorney:
Lynette Labinger

Learn more about this case >

2017: Gooding v. Ocean Community YMCA

Category: Discrimination  Gender Discrimination  Women's Rights  

About This Case:
This is a lawsuit against the Ocean Community YMCA in Westerly, RI, on behalf of Elizabeth Gooding for violating her right to breastfeed in public.  The suit, filed in Rhode Island Superior Court, claims that the facility repeatedly prohibited Gooding from breastfeeding her baby there, in violation of state anti-discrimination laws and a statute specifically allowing breastfeeding in public.

Current Status:
Lawsuit settled in November 2017.

ACLU Cooperating Attorney:
H. Jefferson Melish

Learn more about this case >

2016: Perreault v. Harmony Fire District / Ferragamo v. Harmony Fire District

Category: Active Case  Discrimination  Gender Discrimination  Women's Rights  Workplace Rights  

About These Cases:
These are two separate lawsuits on behalf of two female EMT/firefighters who were terminated from their jobs at the Harmony Fire District after they raised concerns about unequal treatment of male and female firefighters. Both women were EMT/firefighters for the Harmony Fire District 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. Notably, none of the male firefighters who raised concerns about equal treatment of male and female employees were disciplined or terminated.

Current Status:
Lawsuits filed in December 2016.

ACLU Cooperating Attorney:
Lynette Labinger, Sonja Deyoe

Learn more about this case >

2004: Bourgeois v. Town of North Smithfield

Category: Discrimination  Gender Discrimination  

Administrative discrimination complaint filed on behalf of a man who, solely because of his sex, was denied a coaching position for a girls’ junior high softball team. Under a settlement agreement, the plaintiff was given the job.

Cooperating Attorney: Lynette Labinger

2003: Rathbun v. Autozone

Category: Discrimination  Gender Discrimination  

The ACLU was co-counsel in this appeal of a federal sex discrimination lawsuit, addressing the appropriate statute of limitations for filing suit under the R.I. Civil Rights Act.

2003: Melendez v. Town of North Smithfield

Category: Discrimination  Gender Discrimination  Racial/Ethnic Discrimination  

Federal lawsuit, on behalf of a female Hispanic firefighter applicant, challenging a state law giving a town a one-time exemption from the Fair Employment Practices Act in order to allow its acquisition of an all-white, all-male private fire and rescue service. After a temporary restraining order was issued in 2003, the Court permanently barred the Town from implementing the takeover in 2004. Attorneys fees were awarded in 2005.

Cooperating Attorneys: Lynette Labinger, John W. Dineen

Learn more about this case >

2000: Perry v. East Providence School Committee

Category: Discrimination  Gender Discrimination  

Successfully settled sex discrimination complaint challenging the school district’s advertisement of a vacancy for a special education aide position as for men only.

1996: Cohen v. Brown University

Category: Discrimination  Gender Discrimination  

“Friend of the court” brief filed in support of a successful challenge to Brown University’s athletic program as sex-discriminatory in violation of Title IX.

1991: Kleczek v. R.I. Interscholastic League

Category: Discrimination  Gender Discrimination  

Unsuccessful lawsuit challenging an Interscholastic League rule barring boys from playing field hockey.

1990: In re: Lucille Riccitelli

Category: Discrimination  Gender Discrimination  Women's Rights  

Successful suit filed after a Probate Court judge denied a married woman the right to change her name back to her birth-name unless she got her husband’s consent.

1989: Virella v. Scott

Category: Discrimination  Gender Discrimination  Privacy  

Favorably settled federal lawsuit challenging Health Department policy denying married but separated women the right to give their children the surname of their choice.

1984: Planned Parenthood v. Board of Medical Review

Category: Discrimination  Gender Discrimination  Privacy  Women's Rights  

Successful challenge to state law requiring husbands to be notified before a woman could have an abortion.

1979: Traugott v. Petit

Category: Discrimination  Gender Discrimination  Women's Rights  

Favorable state Supreme Court decision holding that women have a common law right to use the name of their choice on their driver’s license and motor vehicle registration.

1977: In re: Johnston School Athletic Program

Category: Discrimination  Gender Discrimination  Students' Rights  

Favorably settled Title IX complaint alleging that the school provided unequal athletic opportunity and facilities for girls.

1975: Fortin v. Darlington Little League

Category: Gender Discrimination  

Favorable appeals court decision finding unconstitutional a Little League rule which barred girls from playing in the League.