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Elizabeth Johnston, Fellow

Elizabeth Johnston is a Skadden Fellow on the Education & Employment team, as well as the Cross-Cutting Initiatives team at the National Women's Law Center. Prior to joining the Center, Elizabeth was a law clerk for the Honorable Anthony J. Trenga (EDVA) and the Honorable Martha Craig Daughtrey (6th Circuit). She received a law degree from Vanderbilt University and a Bachelors in History and Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia. She is fluent in Spanish. 

My Take

Workers Are United in Support of Peggy Young

Posted by Elizabeth Johnston, Fellow | Posted on: December 01, 2014 at 02:37 pm

In September, I attended a meeting of Respect the Bump, a group that formed when OurWalmart members began discussing online the troubles they had working at Walmart during their pregnancies. Women across the country told the same story; when they requested even minor accommodations for medical needs related to their pregnancies, Walmart denied the requests, forced them onto unpaid leave, or fired them. Walmart did this while accommodating workers with disabilities and on the job injuries. I was at the Respect the Bump meeting to conduct know-your-rights training with Elizabeth Gedmark of A Better Balance [PDF]. The women of Respect the Bump were charged with setting the agenda: we agreed to answer any questions they might have.

One of the topics the women were eager to discuss was Young v. UPS [PDF] and how they could help support the plaintiff, Peggy Young. The women were used to standing with other Walmart workers, but they told us they wanted to stand with Peggy Young as well. That’s because her case demonstrates just how widespread the problem of pregnancy discrimination remains.

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Walmart Moms Stand for Respect

On Black Friday, Walmart workers across the country will be standing up for $15 an hour, full-time schedules, and respect at work -- workers like Sheena Kennedy.   

Sheena

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In San Francisco and Across the Country Workers Call for Schedules That Work

Yesterday, the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco voted on historic legislation to ensure workers in San Francisco’s chain restaurant and retail stores have predictable and stable schedules. The vote was 10-0 in favor of the legislation—completely unanimous and a veto-proof majority!

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We All Need Schedules That Work

Posted by Elizabeth Johnston, Fellow | Posted on: November 18, 2014 at 10:45 am

Today is my little brother’s birthday. It’s a big birthday, but not for good reasons. Today, TJ turns 26, which means that he can no longer be on my parents’ health insurance. He works as a bartender at a few different places and does not have health insurance through his employer. Last week, he and I sat down to figure out what plan he should sign up for on the healthcare exchange. And things got complicated.

Because TJ’s shifts and hours change with such frequency, he has a really hard time budgeting. He could not tell me for sure how much he could afford to pay for health insurance in any given month. He couldn’t tell me which subsidies he might qualify for. This type of instability is a common problem for workers in low-wage hourly jobs. In one study [PDF], between 20 and 30 percent of low-wage workers reported a reduction in hours or a layoff when work was slow. And another found [PDF] that for 59 percent of retail employees employed by one major retailer, either the shifts or the days they worked changed each week.

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Sixth Circuit to Same-Sex Couples: Just Wait and See

Posted by Elizabeth Johnston, Fellow | Posted on: November 07, 2014 at 02:33 pm

Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit handed down its decision in DeBoer v. Snyder, [PDF] becoming the first federal appellate court to state uphold bans on marriage between same-sex couples post-Windsor. Instead of addressing the constitutional issues, the majority focused largely on who should decide the issue, insisting that the democratic process, not the federal judiciary, was the appropriate forum through which same-sex couples should obtain their civil rights. In other words, those “laboratories of experimentation” that adopted the bans to begin with should be charged with removing them. This decision begs the question, what is the role of the courts, if not to “say what the law is”—especially when the legal questions involve individual constitutional rights of such grave importance? Nevertheless, according to the Sixth Circuit, the courts should “wait and see” what the fallout is in the states where same-sex marriage is now legal and respect the will of the voters. Sound familiar? That same argument was made, unsuccessfully, by Virginia in Loving v. Virginia, the case that overturned Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage. It was an outrageous proposition then and it is today: don’t we look to courts to be counter-majoritarian? To prevent majorities from oppressing minorities?

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