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Illinois Commits to Protect Pregnant Workers

Posted by Emily Martin, Vice President and General Counsel | Posted on: August 26, 2014 at 10:19 am

Bene’t Holmes, a 25-year-old single mother of a five-year-old son, worked at Walmart in Chicago when she became pregnant last year. Holmes describes having trouble lifting 50-pound boxes on the job when she was four months pregnant. Walmart’s written policy at the time was to provide reasonable accommodations for disabilities and on-the-job injuries, but not for pregnancy. Holmes knew that her work was putting excessive strain on her body, and her doctor said she needed temporary job duties that would be less physically strenuous. But according to Holmes, a store manager denied her request, explaining that when she took her job, she was expected to lift 50 pounds. The day after her request was denied, Holmes had a miscarriage while at work at Walmart.

Unfortunately, Holmes’ story is not unique. Today, more women are in the workforce than ever before and are working later into their pregnancies. While most women continue working throughout their pregnancies with no need for changes in their jobs, some—particularly those in physically demanding jobs—will need temporary adjustments to continue working safely. Frequently these women need only a simple accommodation—like avoiding heavy lifting for a few months, being permitted to sit occasionally during a long workday, or staying off high ladders.

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Instability at Work Wreaks Havoc on Moms and Children

Posted by Holly Flynn, Intern | Posted on: August 15, 2014 at 04:27 pm

Have you ever heard of “clopening?” It’s when a worker has to close up the shop, store, or restaurant where they work late at night and then report for an early-morning shift just a few hours later. Stressful scheduling like clopening frequently occurs when employers use scheduling software designed to maximize profits—often at the expense of working mothers and their children. This week, the New York Times featured a front-page profile of Jannette Navarro, a mom who works as a barista at a Starbucks in New York City. Jannette’s story shows how the scheduling practices of major chains are unsustainable for moms who need child care, as well as highly detrimental to their children, who bear the brunt of a lack of stability.

The challenges for Jannette Navarro and many women like her begin with the scheduling software many companies use to determine employees’ shifts based on how much business they anticipate. This software enables companies to increase their profits by reducing labor costs, but it works, as the New York Times calls it, by “redistributing some of the uncertainty of doing business from corporations to families.” Jannette typically received her always-changing schedule just three days in advance, leaving very little time to arrange child care for her 4-year-old son, Gavin. While Gavin could attend a preschool program during the day, shifts early in the morning or later in the evening forced Jannette to scramble to get a friend or relative to take care of him—and Gavin’s child center is not open on weekends. Furthermore, Jannette worried about losing access to child care because of her work schedule, since Gavin’s eligibility depended on her working a minimum number of hours, and she was always at risk of not getting enough.

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An Eye-Opening Reminder of Where We Fall Short for Women and Families

Posted by Alana Eichner, Program Assistant | Posted on: August 14, 2014 at 03:56 pm

On Tuesday, several of us at the National Women’s Law Center had the privilege of meeting with a group of 11 female political leaders from Latin America, hailing from Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru and Venezuela.

Staff from the Law Center spoke about our efforts to advance public policies that work for women and families, and women from the delegation asked poignant questions about how we advance that mission, and the successes and challenges we face in those efforts.

Part of what was so striking about the conversation was noticing what facts about the state of public policy for women in the U.S. most shocked our visitors. Explaining the recent Hobby Lobby decision caused jaws to drop when the group realized they had heard the English to Spanish translation correctly: the Court actually ruled in favor of an employer’s right to impose its religious beliefs on the health care decisions of its employees. More shocked faces accompanied learning that the U.S. federal minimum wage still sits at a puny $7.25 per hour—and it doesn’t even apply to all workers. And again, disbelieving inquiries followed hearing that an employer has no obligation to guarantee its workers a minimum number of hours, but can instead send workers home without pay if business is slow—even if an employee has traveled long distances or arranged child care to be at work.

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Invest In Kids Twitter Action

Posted by Helen Blank, Director of Child Care and Early Learning | Posted on: August 14, 2014 at 03:46 pm


You’re invited to stand up for early learning!

Who: Early learning advocates (organizations and individuals)

What: Tweets about the importance of expanding access to early learning

Why: Keep up the public outcry in support of early learning

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Breastfeeding in a Digital World

Posted by Katie Hegarty, Online Outreach Assistant | Posted on: August 14, 2014 at 09:15 am

Full disclosure: I spend all day on Facebook. I’m doing important advocacy and outreach, and like to think I’m helping to change the world for women and girls, but still, half the words I use are hashtagged. And because I spend so much time on social media (and because I’m in my twenties), I see a lot of baby pictures. I mean a lot. But I haven’t seen any pictures of my Facebook friends breastfeeding — even now, during National Breastfeeding Month.

It may be that Facebook (and Instagram, which it owns) doesn’t want me to see breastfeeding pictures. A few years ago, the company found itself in hot water over its standards for deleting breastfeeding images. It recently amended its policy, though user complaints still have the potential to get a photo deleted. Of course Facebook has every right to enforce its anti-obscenity policies, but to label feeding a baby “obscene”? That’s out of line.

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Five Reasons to Celebrate Social Security's 79th Birthday

Posted by Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security | Posted on: August 14, 2014 at 09:09 am

On August 14, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act. As he said at the time, he was just laying the “cornerstone in a structure which is being built but is by no means complete.” Since then, generations of Americans have contributed to, strengthened, and improved our Social Security system—and for generations, it has protected workers and their families against the loss of income due to retirement, disability, or death. Through wars and recessions, Social Security insurance payments have been made on time and in full; last month, over 58 million Americans of all ages relied on Social Security.

Each of those 58 million people has a story to tell about what Social Security means to them and their families—but 58 million is too many reasons to list. So here are five reasons to celebrate today:

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Stem the Rising Tide of Corporate Inversions

Posted by Tiffany Ray, Intern | Posted on: August 11, 2014 at 02:30 pm

Taxpayers scored a major win this week when Walgreen Co. nixed plans to become the latest U.S. corporation to move its corporate address abroad in order to dodge tax bills here at home. Public outcry against the legal loophole known as “inversion” is reaching a fever pitch; clearly, Walgreen was listening. Let’s hope Congress is, too.

Inversion is a scheme by which a company based in the U.S. can merge with a company abroad and then re-incorporate in that other country – one with a more advantageous tax structure, typically the UK, Ireland, or Switzerland – to avoid paying taxes at home.

These U.S. inverters are, literally and figuratively, un-American. With each new deal that’s struck, they push even more of the tax burden onto workers, families, and small business [PDF].

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