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I'm All About Griswold

Posted by Margot Benedict, Legal Intern | Posted on: June 05, 2015 at 09:44 am

Growing up, I was not fond of my middle name. Griswold isn’t exactly every eight-year-old’s dream middle name. I tried to avoid anything with monogrammed initials for fear that someone would ask me what the G stood for. Grace served as a convenient substitute. Then I heard about Griswold v.

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Democrats and Republicans Agree: Time for Fairness for Pregnant Workers

Posted by Emily Martin, Vice President and General Counsel | Posted on: June 04, 2015 at 01:19 pm

Today, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was introduced in Congress, just as it was in 2012 and 2013—but this time, with a crucial difference. This time Republicans stood with Democrats in asserting that the time for fairness for pregnant workers has arrived. In addition to Congressman Nadler, Senator Casey, and Senator Shaheen, all longstanding Democratic champions for pregnant workers, Republican Senators Ayotte and Heller have lent their leadership and support to the bill. This is a big deal, as bipartisan efforts are few and far between these days, and a bipartisan bill is much more likely to move forward.

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A Problem and a Step Towards a Solution: Mothers and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Posted by Abigail Bar-Lev, Fellow | Posted on: June 04, 2015 at 01:12 pm

Today is a big day.  

Today is Equal Pay Day for mothers who work outside of the home—while women typically earn 78 cents to every dollar earned by men for full-time, year-round work, these women earn just 70 cents to every dollar earned by fathers who work outside of the home. This means that for mothers who work outside of the home, today marks the day that their salaries finally catch up to equal pay for the previous year.

Today Congress has also reintroduced the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, or PWFA, to ensure that pregnant workers with medical needs receive reasonable accommodations at work that keep them on the job and earning a paycheck. While most women can work safely throughout their pregnancies without needing any job modifications, some women find that at some point during pregnancy particular job activities—such as lifting, bending, or standing for long periods—may begin to pose a challenge. Many of these women could continue to work without risk to themselves or their pregnancies with slight job modifications. Unfortunately, too many women are pushed out of their jobs—losing not only valuable paychecks but often benefits and insurance coverage—simply for being pregnant. The PWFA—introduced with bipartisan support—adopts language from the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure that no pregnant worker will have to choose between the health and safety of her pregnancy and her paycheck.

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HALT Campus Sexual Violence Act Introduced This Morning

This morning I had the privilege of participating in a press conference held by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Congressman Patrick Meehan (R-PA), to announce their introduction of a bipartisan bill to address campus sexual assault: the Hold Accountable and Lend Transparency (HALT) Campus Sexual Violence Act.

Nearly 20% of college women and 6% of college men are victims of attempted or completed campus sexual assault — and the numbers are really higher, as sexual assault is a very under-reported crime. Too often, survivors are afraid to report their experiences, not only to law enforcement but also to their schools, because they fear biased treatment that denies them access to fair and impartial resolutions and that can traumatize and re-victimize them.

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Oregon Bans Retaliation for Pay Discussion and Disclosures

Posted by Abigail Bar-Lev, Fellow | Posted on: June 03, 2015 at 03:29 pm

Last week Oregon took an important step towards closing the wage gap for the women in its state. With the strong advocacy of Family Forward Oregon, the legislature passed HB 2007, a bill that prohibits employers from retaliating or discriminating against employees who inquire about, discuss, or disclose their pay. Once the Governor signs the bill into law, Oregon will become the 11th state to explicitly provide these protections to workers.

What does this anti-retaliation law have to do with the wage gap? The story of Lilly Ledbetter illustrates the problem of pay secrecy. She worked for Goodyear Tire plant for nearly 20 years and only discovered that she was being paid significantly less than lower-ranked male colleagues thanks to an anonymous note from someone in HR. She could not have discovered the discrepancy on her own if she had thought to check—her employer banned employees for discussing pay.

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Mothers Make Less Than Fathers in Every State

Tomorrow, June 4th, is mothers’ equal pay day—the day that marks how long into the year mothers who work full time, year round have to wait before their typical annual earnings equal what fathers made in just one year.

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North Dakota Enacts Protections for Pregnant Workers

Posted by Abigail Bar-Lev, Fellow | Posted on: June 03, 2015 at 12:26 pm

This spring feels full of hope and possibility. The sun is out, flowers are blooming, and bills providing pregnant workers with an unmistakable right to reasonable accommodations are becoming law in states all across our country. Just last month Nebraska became the thirteenth state to pass a Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. North Dakota is now the fourteenth state, with New York closely on its heels (stay tuned).

Although many women can work through their pregnancies without needing accommodations, some pregnant workers will require minor changes to their jobs or work settings — like carrying a water bottle on the warehouse floor, sitting on a stool during a long shift, or taking more frequent bathroom breaks — to keep them working without compromising the health and safety of their pregnancy.

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Finding Griswold's Missing Women

Posted by Emily Martin, Vice President and General Counsel | Posted on: June 03, 2015 at 09:56 am

Fifty years ago this week, the Supreme Court held that the Constitution did not permit a state to prohibit the use of contraceptives within marriage or the provision of contraceptives to married people. Finding a “zone of privacy created by several fundamental constitutional guarantees,” the majority concluded that the contraception bans unconstitutionally intruded on marriage, which the Court described as “a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred.” Seven years later, in Eisenstadt v. Baird, the Court extended the constitutional right to use birth control to unmarried couples.

By guaranteeing legal access to birth control, the Griswold decision opened the door for dramatic changes for women and for our society. As the Supreme Court has since observed, “The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.”  In fact, research has shown that availability of reliable birth control has been a key driver of the increases in U.S. women’s education, labor force participation, average earnings, and the narrowing in the wage gap between women and men achieved over recent decades.

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