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Why Doing Your Taxes Might Actually Be Fun This Year

Posted by Jessica Heaven, Fellow | Posted on: January 29, 2010 at 01:30 pm

By Jessica Heaven, Fellow,
National Women’s Law Center

As W-2s and 1099s start appearing in mailboxes once again, kicking off the agonizing annual countdown to April 15, Americans must begin gearing up to discharge that most dreaded of citizenly duties: filing their taxes. In celebration of the venerable but oft-neglected holiday, "Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day," we here at the National Women’s Law Center want to let you know that this year is different. This year, filing taxes can be…well, “fun” might be taking it too far. How about “marginally less unpleasant”?

We all know that more low- and moderate-income families than ever are struggling financially. But fortunately, thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, more help than ever is available to those families in the form of tax credits.

Quick tax lesson – don’t run away: in general, a tax credit simply lowers the amount a family owes in income taxes. However, for some tax credits, even if a family owes little or nothing in income taxes, it can receive the value of the credit – sometimes thousands of dollars – as a refund. This means that for the families who are in the direst of financial straits, tax credits can be essential to survival (and you thought taxes were boring).

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Tomorrow Marks One-Year Anniversary of Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

Posted by Kolbe Franklin, Program Associate | Posted on: January 28, 2010 at 09:30 pm

by Kolbe Franklin, Program Associate,
National Women’s Law Center

It’s time to celebrate!

Last night in his State of the Union Address, President Obama promised increased enforcement of equal pay laws so women may one day receive equal pay for equal work.

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Ledbetter Restored the Law, Paycheck Fairness Will Strengthen It

Posted by Kavitha Sivashanker, Fellow | Posted on: January 27, 2010 at 07:02 pm

by Kavitha Sivashanker, Fellow,
National Women's Law Center

As commentators prepare their retrospectives on year one of President Obama’s tenure, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, the first bill he signed into law, stands out as a critical achievement. This monumental law restored the ability of workers to vindicate their right to equal pay in court, reversing the Supreme Court’s harmful 5-4 decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and putting the law back to where it had been for decades.

While passage of the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act represents a major step towards addressing the wage gap for women, the struggle to achieve wage equality remains far from over. Women today are still paid, on average, only 77 cents for every dollar paid to men, and the wage gap is even worse for women of color.

Passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act is an essential next step to build on the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act by improving incentives for employers to comply with the law and the ability of employees to secure compliance with it. While the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act restored the law, the Paycheck Fairness Act strengthens the law and plugs loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963. 

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New Year, New Requirements for Mental Health Coverage

Posted by | Posted on: January 27, 2010 at 01:30 pm

By Sofia Rosenblum, Intern,
and Brigette Courtot, Senior Policy Analyst,
National Women's Law Center

A new year always brings about change and transition, and one change worth noting this year is the implementation of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity Act of 2008 (MHPA), which took effect on January 1st.

The MHPA establishes parity between physical and mental health benefits in job-based health plans. Historically, health plans have required higher cost-sharing and applied more restrictions to mental health benefits when compared to coverage for physical health care. But under the new law—which expands the scope of a less-protective federal mental health parity law passed in 1996—plans are prohibited from charging different levels of cost-sharing or imposing different treatment limits for mental health and physical health care.

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Child Care on the Agenda

Posted by Karen Schulman, Senior Policy Analyst | Posted on: January 25, 2010 at 07:46 pm

by Karen Schulman, Senior Policy Analyst, 
National Women's Law Center 

Today the President made clear he recognizes that child care is central to efforts to strengthen middle-class families. 

At a meeting of the White House Middle Class Task Force, the President announced several proposals to help families, including those juggling their responsibilities to care for their children and their elderly parents as well as those trying to pay off student loans. 

By including child care in this agenda for middle-class families, the White House is acknowledging that families working to get ahead cannot succeed unless parents have stable, affordable child care that enables them to get and keep a job and that offers a nurturing, supportive environment for their children.

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The Rule of Law (and Common Sense) Prevails in Sexual Harassment Decision

Posted by NWLC Intern, Intern | Posted on: January 25, 2010 at 06:33 pm

By Diana Miller, Intern,
National Women’s Law Center

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit issued a unanimous decision in a sexual harassment case that is a victory for women in the workplace and for civil rights advocates nationwide. 

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The 37th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade: Reflections on the "Right to Privacy" and What the U.S. Supreme Court Can Learn from International Human Rights Law

Posted by Jenifer Rajkumar, Fellow | Posted on: January 22, 2010 at 07:55 pm

by Jenifer Rajkumar, Fellow,
National Women's Law Center

On this 37th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, with health care reform uncertain, it is a wonderful time to leave Congress and the Executive behind for awhile, and turn hopefully to another branch of government—the Judiciary.

The story of the Roe v. Wade case is legendary and uplifting. In 1972, a young 26-year-old lawyer named Sarah Weddington went to the Supreme Court to challenge a Texas law criminalizing abortion. Justice Blackmun, who had thought of the abortion issue on a personal level through his conversations with his daughter penned the opinion establishing women’s abortion right. 

Weddington tried pleading the case on many grounds — including Fourteenth Amendment equal protection and the 9th Amendment, but in the end what she got was a decision upholding a woman's right to an abortion based on the 14th Amendment's "right to privacy". 

I would like to suggest that in order to fully secure women's abortion right, the U.S. Supreme Court should re-formulate the "right to privacy" it established in Roe, taking a cue from international human rights law. 

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