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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

What Would Make Labor Day So Much Better? Schedules That Work!

Melody Pabon and her four-year-old son MasonLabor Day memorializes laborers’ courageous fights throughout our nation’s history for fair working conditions, starting with battles over long hours, low pay, child labor, and unsafe working conditions in the 1800s and 1900s that led to major advances in all of these areas.

And today, workers are still on the frontlines – fighting for livable wages and for an end to abusive scheduling practices, which are increasingly common in the American workplace. All too often, employers require that workers have completely open availability to be eligible for full-time hours, and cancel and assign shifts at the very last minute. Too many part-time workers simply cannot get enough hours at their jobs to make ends meet.


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.


Baby Steps: Walmart Takes Its First Step to Accommodate Pregnant Workers

Posted by Elizabeth Johnston, Fellow | Posted on: June 19, 2014 at 10:23 am

Pregnant workers at Walmart got a break earlier this year. After months of worker engagement and activism, and a class action discrimination charge brought by the National Women’s Law Center along with our partners, A Better Balance and Mehri & Skalet, the country’s largest employer of women announced a policy shift that represented a big step forward in ensuring that pregnant women who need them will receive basic accommodations. Previously, Walmart’s policy had explicitly stated that pregnancy was a condition eligible only for minor job adjustments and that a pregnant worker was ineligible for the same reassignments and transfers of nonessential job duties offered to workers with disabilities. As a result, as we heard from many Walmart associates, pregnant workers with medical needs for accommodation were routinely denied them, even as Walmart provided these accommodations for workers with medical needs stemming from non-pregnancy-related disabilities and on the job injuries, in violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). For many women at Walmart, having a baby meant losing a paycheck, or even a job. This is what happened to our client, “Melissa,” who Walmart pushed onto unpaid leave early in her third trimester when her doctor told her to stay off ladders and avoid lifting more than 25-pounds.


EEOC Plays Crucial Role in Rooting Out Workplace Discrimination

Yesterday the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections held a hearing on “The Regulatory and Enforcement Priorities of the EEOC.”

As witness Sherilynn Ifill, President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, noted, fifty years after passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, discrimination is still an all too common workplace reality. [PDF]

Addressing this persistent problem requires a strategic approach to enforcing our nation’s nondiscrimination laws. And that is exactly the approach the EEOC has taken through its Strategic Enforcement Plan, which identified priority areas for enforcement. Importantly, during its development of the Plan, the EEOC sought input from a wide range of stakeholders on the priority areas of focus for its enforcement efforts.


The Collateral Damage of Scheduling Challenges in Low-Wage Jobs

When policymakers discuss solutions to help nearly 20 million low-wage workers make ends meet, the focus is often on raising wages. Raising the minimum wage and tipped minimum wage would go a long way to help these workers, but policymakers should also be concerned about curbing abusive scheduling practices that create incredible uncertainty for workers and their families about whether they will be given enough hours on the schedule to make ends meet and the timing of those hours.  

Women are disproportionately affected by challenging work schedules because women hold the majority of low-wage jobs and often have significant caregiving responsibilities outside of work, but men in low-wage jobs also suffer as a result of often difficult, and sometimes abusive work scheduling practices. A new issue brief recently released by NWLC describes five of the most common scheduling challenges faced by workers in low-wage jobs and the collateral damage they impose on workers and their families. Here are some highlights: