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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

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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On Heartbreak and Butter Cake: A Dispatch from St. Louis

Genius organizer Ai-Jen Poo often talks about how home care workers and other domestic workers are the invisible workforce – performing life-sustaining work for low wages and no benefits day in and day out. But this week in St. Louis at the Home Care Workers Rising conference home care workers made their dreams and their struggles highly visible. They came together from across the country to hammer out plans for a better future for themselves, their children, and the consumers for whom they provide care.

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Walmart Managers Must Respect the Rights of Associates

Posted by Elizabeth Johnston, Fellow | Posted on: September 26, 2014 at 03:11 pm

More than six months after Walmart changed its pregnancy accommodation policy, the experience of workers on the ground is that pregnant women are still not being accommodated. Thankfully, workers are organizing to ensure that Walmart implements its  pregnancy accommodation policy in the way it promised.

Last week, I attended a meeting of Respect the Bump, a group that formed when Our Walmart members began discussing online the troubles they had working at Walmart during their pregnancies. After comparing stories, these women found that, across the country, pregnant Walmart workers faced similar challenges: Instead of providing even minor accommodations to those pregnant women that needed them, Walmart routinely forced them onto unpaid leave or fired them.  This is despite the fact that Walmart routinely accommodated workers with a broad array of disabilities and workers with on-the-job injuries. This disparate treatment violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

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