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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

  • May, 23, 2017: Court Issues Major Ruling Protecting Medical Marijuana Patients From Discrimination
  • 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

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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    


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. Filed with the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the lawsuits 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.

Current Status:
Lawsuits filed in December 2016.

ACLU Cooperating Attorney:
Lynette Labinger

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


About This Case:
This is a lawsuit 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. 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.”

“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

Current Status:
In appeals.  In May 2017, R.I. Superior Court Justice Richard Licht ruled that Darlington Fabrics discriminated against Callaghan and held that the state’s medical marijuana law, which bars discrimination in employment against “cardholders,” applies to job applicants like Callaghan.

ACLU Cooperating Attorney:
Carly Beauvais Iafrate

Supporting Documents

Related Legislation

Employer Liability (S 773)
Category: 2017    Workplace Rights    

This legislation, supported by the ACLU, was introduced by Senator Frank Lombardi in direct response to a recent RI Supreme Court decision narrowly interpreting the state’s Fair Employment Practices Act, which concluded that, as currently written, state law does not provide for individual liability against an employee who engages in discriminatory conduct in the workplace. The bill would amend FEPA to clarify that such liability does exist.