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Reproductive Health Care: Good for Women, Good for Families

Posted by Chloé White, Intern | Posted on: June 18, 2014 at 09:49 am

Next week, advocates from across the country will meet at the White House to discuss issues that are important to working families. On the Center’s list of issues is access to safe and affordable reproductive health services. Reproductive health services are definitely important for a family’s physical health and well-being, since being able to plan and space pregnancies is good for the health of mothers and children, but reproductive health is also crucial for working families’ economic health and security.

When women can control their reproductive decision-making, their educational and professional opportunities and even their lifetime earnings can increase. One study found that women with access to contraception were more likely to be in college and had higher earnings long into their careers, while another [PDF] pointed to contraception as a reason for the narrowing of the wage gap. With access to safe reproductive health care, women are better able to achieve educational and professional goals and support their families and themselves, both emotionally and financially.

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Will New Jersey Seize the Opportunity to Tackle Pay Discrimination?

Posted by Emily Werth, Fellow | Posted on: June 18, 2014 at 09:33 am

This summer could represent a big moment in the fight to close the wage gap in New Jersey. Two bills aimed at addressing pay discrimination recently cleared both of the houses of the state’s legislature — the Unfair Wage Recovery Act and the Wage Transparency Act. But Governor Christie has previously vetoed both these key pieces of legislation, and so the question is  will he stand in the way of progress toward equal pay yet again?

The Unfair Wage Recovery Act is modeled on the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act  a landmark law adopted five years ago that kept the doors of the federal courthouse open for workers who experience pay discrimination. This bill would provide that the time period for a person to bring a pay discrimination suit under New Jersey state law re-starts each time that the person receives a paycheck that reflects discrimination. This would ensure that victims of discrimination won’t be denied a remedy just because they weren’t aware of discrimination until years later, and that employers will have the right incentives to promptly root out and eliminate any unfair pay disparities.

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Debunking the Myth: Minimum Wage Workers May Not Be Who You Think

Posted by Therese Salazar, Intern | Posted on: June 17, 2014 at 01:34 pm

I am here to make a confession: I’ve been leading you astray. I didn’t mean to, it was totally unintentional, and we (probably) haven’t even met. Still, my bad.

If you think of the average low-wage worker, you probably think of me. Young, working part-time to help pay for school and gas, plans to change jobs soon. Many people think low-wage jobs are held by teens and young adults who hope to earn a bit of extra pocket money on nights and weekends. And since the age of 15, that has been me. I have worked part-time for that very pocket money in order to subsidize my incredible coffee addiction, buy the newest pair of shoes, and pay for movies and entertainment.

However, the reality of the situation is that minimum wage jobs in America are disproportionally held by adults. Most work full-time. And many have children and families to support.

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Early Learning: A Key Issue for Working Families

Posted by | Posted on: June 17, 2014 at 11:12 am

Parents, teachers, and experts agree—high-quality early childhood education is a must for giving our young children the strong start they need to succeed in school, in work, and in life. And by helping children succeed, we help the country prosper. Early education should be a top priority at the upcoming White House Summit on Working Families not only because it benefits today’s workforce and working families, but because it will benefit our nation’s future workforce and working families.

Numerous studies have revealed that low-income children who attend high-quality preschool have significantly better educational outcomes through high school and college and are more likely to get a job and earn more income later in life than their peers who did not receive the same education early in life. At-risk children who do not attend preschool are more likely to be placed in special education, become a teen parent, drop out of high school, and become involved in crime. The benefits of preschool far exceed the initial costs. Clearly, it is to everyone’s advantage that all children—particularly children from low-income and vulnerable families—have access to high-quality early learning.

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Can We All Agree? Pregnant Workers Deserve Fair Treatment

Posted by Lauren Khouri, Fellow | Posted on: June 16, 2014 at 03:46 pm

There is a short list of things we can all agree on — summer vacations are the best; sequels are never as good as the original movie; Diet Dr. Pepper tastes close to the real thing. After the last year, I'd like to think we can add "fair treatment for pregnant workers" to the list. But while states around the country seem to agree that this is an utterly noncontroversial statement, Congress just can't seem to get on board. 

While many women can work through pregnancy without needing any changes in their daily work, some women have a medical need for temporary modifications in job policies or duties in order to continue working safely through their pregnancies. Women like Hilda Guzzman. Hilda stood on her feet for eight to ten hours at a time in her job as a cashier and started to experience premature labor pains as a result. She asked her employer if she could sit on a stool while working the cash register. Her employer refused to accommodate her pregnancy-related impairment and she was forced out of her job. Without an accommodation, Hilda was unable to work for the remainder of her pregnancy. She lost her income at the very moment her financial needs were increasing. 

Unfortunately, Hilda's story is not unique. All too often, when pregnant women request a temporary change in the workplace — such as a reprieve from heavy lifting or the right to drink water during a shift — their employers are denying the request and pushing pregnant women out of their jobs.

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Addressing the Challenges of Child Care

Posted by | Posted on: June 16, 2014 at 10:32 am

As the White House Summit on Working Families draws near, we’re looking forward to this opportunity to highlight not only how crucial child care is to the success of working parents but also the challenges parents — particularly low-income parents — face in finding and affording high-quality care. 

While parents are at work, they think about how their kids are doing. They need the peace of mind that comes with knowing that their children are in a safe, nurturing environment. They need to know that their children are developing the social and learning skills that they need to be successful in school and in life. In short, they need high-quality child care. Yet many parents cannot afford it. Full-time child care for one child can average $4,000 to $16,000 a year [PDF], depending on where the family lives, the age of the child, and the type of care. 

The cost of child care is especially burdensome for parents working low-wage jobs. Nearly one in five working mothers with very young children work in low-wage jobs and about one-third of these mothers are poor. These low-wage workers not only lack the resources to afford high-quality early learning programs but often have unstable and unpredictable schedules or work during nights and weekends.

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DOJ Reaches Agreement with Missoula on Improving Handling of Sexual Assault Cases, But Work isn’t Over Yet

Posted by Samantha Hall, Intern | Posted on: June 12, 2014 at 03:39 pm

Another step has been taken towards making college campuses and their surrounding areas safer for students. You did not misread that— we are making progress in the fight against sexual assault. The Department of Justice Civil Rights Division recently announced the last of three agreements with Missoula, Montana stakeholders regarding improving the reporting, investigation, and prosecution of sexual assault and harassment. Though a lot of work remains to be done to combat the prevalence of sexual assault, these three agreements signal some progress in addressing complaints of assault. The DOJ’s agreement with the Missoula County Attorney’s Office comes one year after similar agreements were reached with the University of Montana at Missoula and the Missoula Police Department.

The County Attorney’s Office’s agreement is the necessary third leg of reform that Missoula has been expecting since investigations into how it addresses sexual assault began in May 2012. While the first two agreements focused on things like how sexual assault is reported on campus and how investigations into allegations of sexual assault are conducted, the reforms in the newest agreement focus on how sexual assault is brought to court. Some of the changes include meeting with survivors and their investigators before deciding whether to bring charges and keeping survivors informed of the status of their cases. While many of the changes are common sense, we’re just happy that they will be standard practice from here on out.

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Sixth Circuit Holds That Non-Profit Organizations Can't Interfere with Employees' Birth Control Coverage

Posted by Hillary Schneller, Fellow | Posted on: June 12, 2014 at 01:23 pm

Yesterday, another federal court of appeals [PDF] sided with female employees for whom the Affordable Care Act ensures birth control coverage. In a unanimous decision [PDF] rom a panel of three judges, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the request of several non-profit organizations with religious objections to birth control to exempt them from the birth control coverage requirement, even though they are not even required to provide the coverage. The court’s decision means that the female employees and their covered dependents will not lose access to the birth control benefit, despite their bosses’ efforts.

These non-profit organizations are entitled to an “accommodation” for the birth control benefit, which aims to respect religious beliefs while still ensuring that women get the benefit they deserve. Under the “accommodation,” the non-profit organizations simply sign a form telling their insurer that they have religious objections to birth control. Separately, the insurer arranges for the employees to get birth control covered with no cost-sharing.

But these non-profits are challenging the accommodation in court, arguing that it violates their religious beliefs to even sign the form.

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