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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

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 04:11 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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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.

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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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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.

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