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Serving Up the Truth About Sexual Harassment, With a Side of Commonsense

Posted by Liz Watson, Senior Counsel and Director of Workplace Justice for Women | Posted on: June 24, 2014 at 10:34 am

Written by Nikki Lewis, Executive Director, DC Jobs with Justice, and Liz Watson, Senior Counsel and Director of Workplace Justice for Women, NWLC

What do you call the person who can make you stay late at work, who decides who works the night shift and who works days, who works the cash register and who cleans the toilets? You call that person the boss. But exactly one year ago today, the Supreme Court said that if the person who directs your daily work harasses you, unless they also have the power to hire and fire you, the strong protections that are supposed to kick in when bosses harass their subordinates do not apply.

Right about now, you might be scratching your head thinking that this doesn’t make any sense. And you would be right. But let us explain how we ended up with this terrible rule and what can be done about it.

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A Tale of Two Macy's

Posted by Liz Watson, Senior Counsel and Director of Workplace Justice for Women | Posted on: June 23, 2014 at 04:47 pm

Earlier today, I caught up with Kay Thompson and Sasha Hammad during a break at the White House Summit on Working Families. Kay spoke at the Summit about what having a predicable full-time schedule and a say in the timing of her work hours has meant for her family. Sasha Hammad is director of the Retail Action Project, and is fighting to secure these same protections for all retail workers in New York City.

Liz: Kay, you mentioned you work at Macy’s.

Kay: Yes, I work at Macy’s in Herald’s Square in the domestics department. And I’m a proud member of Local 1-S of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union/UFCW.

Liz: And what does your work schedule there look like?

Kay: Thanks to my collective bargaining agreement, my schedule guarantees me the right to choose my days off six months in advance, and determine which days I am available to come in early and which days I can work late. Even during the holiday season, I get my schedule three weeks in advance.

Liz: From your remarks in there, it sounds like this schedule has made a big difference to you and your family.

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Title IX's 42nd Anniversary: 9 Key Facts

Posted by Michaela Olson, Intern | Posted on: June 23, 2014 at 02:36 pm

1. Title IX, passed 42 years ago today as part of the Education Amendments of 1972, is concise but critical: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

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Five Reasons the Working Parents Home Office Act is Not What Working Mothers Need

Posted by Elizabeth Johnston, Fellow | Posted on: June 20, 2014 at 03:23 pm

In advance of the White House Summit on Working Families, several Senate Republicans unveiled a package of bills to address issues facing working parents. One featured proposal is the Working Parents Home Office Act. Introduced by Senator McConnell on Wednesday, it would give parents a tax deduction for their home office if they put a baby crib in it. Current law disallows a deduction if there is a crib in the office. Here are just a few reasons why a tax break for home office/nurseries falls way short of the goal line.

1. Most mothers don’t work from home. In the U.S. today, 71% of all mothers [PDF] work outside the home. In fact, over 1.2 million [PDF] mothers with very young children are in low-wage occupations. This accounts for nearly one in five working mothers. These jobs are marked by difficult and sometimes abusive scheduling practices [PDF]that make arranging childcare a nightmare. Women need predictable, stable, and flexible work schedules that let them meet the extreme demands they face at work and at home. This bill does nothing for women that don’t work from home but need more flexibility. A right to request law, like those in San Francisco and Vermont, would give all workers an easier way to ask their employers about work schedules that work for them and their families.

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Empowerment in the Workplace is Crucial for Workers and Their Families

Posted by Caitlin McCartney, Intern | Posted on: June 20, 2014 at 03:04 pm

As witness Heidi Shierholz, economist at the Economic Policy Institute, testified at a U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee hearing this week on “Empowerment in the Workplace,” “An empowered workforce is one that shares fairly in the fruits of its labor.” Unfortunately, government policies have led to trends of inequality over the past decades. 

This is in part because policy has failed to respond to changing realities of the workforce, as Congressman John Delaney stressed in an opening statement. While workplaces are often structured around an outdated model of a two parent household with one breadwinner and one parent home to take care of family responsibilities, this model no longer works for families in the United States. Today, women comprise nearly fifty percent [PDF] of the workforce, and compared with 30 years ago, mothers of young children are almost twice as likely [PDF] to be employed. Additionally, men today report spending more time with their children. More than ever before, workers must balance work duties with meeting the basic needs of their families.

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Race to the Top: States Continue to Set New Standards with Minimum Wage Increases

Posted by Emily Wales, Fellow | Posted on: June 20, 2014 at 02:56 pm

Don’t Google “state pride tattoos.” There are just too many results; it’s overwhelming. But as my “research” proved, competition among states can manifest itself in some really silly ways. Every once in a while, though, that my-state-is-better-than-yours attitude is well earned.

Take, for example, the number of states vying to establish the country’s highest statewide minimum wage. More than once this year, we’ve read headlines that one state or another has climbed to the top – and it just keeps happening. In March, Connecticut was self-high-fiving during its reign. Earlier this month, Vermont snatched the title. And as of this week, Massachusetts is moving into first place.

The Bay State’s bill, which will raise the minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2017, received final lawmaker approval yesterday, and Governor Deval Patrick is expected to sign the legislation soon. Tipped workers will also see an increase in their minimum cash wage, which will rise from $2.63 to $3.75.

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Parents in Low-Wage Jobs Share Their Struggles Finding Child Care and Making Ends Meet

Posted by Emily Wales, Fellow | Posted on: June 20, 2014 at 02:24 pm

Women make up 76 percent of workers in the 10 largest low-wage occupations and they shoulder the lion’s share of caregiving responsibilities for children. Yet working parents in low-wage jobs – most of whom are women – face significant obstacles to securing child care that is stable, high-quality, and affordable. The Ms. Foundation is supporting an effort by six worker justice organizations – Adhikaar for Human Rights and Social Justice, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the Garment Worker Center, the Retail Action Project and Center for Frontline Retail, and Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United – and the National Women’s Law Center to examine the working conditions in low-wage jobs that make it so difficult to arrange child care.

Together, we’re releasing a preliminary report with survey and focus group findings from participatory research conducted by the worker justice organizations that illuminate these challenges – along with preliminary ideas about where we go from here. Read the report here.

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Two Simple Tax Code Changes that Would Make a Big Difference for Working Families

Posted by Susanna Birdsong, Fellow | Posted on: June 20, 2014 at 12:21 pm

I have an almost 2 year old daughter, Lilly. She is so many things: funny, loving, adventurous, curious…expensive. I mean she’s worth it and all, but man does that girl eat her way (literally and figuratively) through our family budget every month.  I know our family is not alone. It seems like everyone is talking about the rising cost of raising children—and it turns out that talk is actually true. And despite the rising cost of living and child rearing, most family income is not keeping up, delivering a one-two punch to working families’ bottom lines.

On June 23rd, the White House will hold a Working Families Summit to focus on the current needs of America’s working families, and potential policy solutions that can help address those needs. I’m hopeful that the Summit will be the beginning of a concerted push for changes that will respond to the economic realities of working families—including some changes in our tax code. There are many tax provisions that can help families make ends meet while raising kids—and a couple of commonsense proposals to make those tax provisions even more meaningful.

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