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Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment

Fatima Goss Graves is Vice President for Education and Employment at the National Women's Law Center, where she works to promote the rights of women and girls at school and in the workplace. Ms. Goss Graves advocates and litigates core legal and policy issues relating to at-risk girls in school, including those that impact pregnant and parenting students, students in a hostile school climate and students participating in athletics. She further works to advance equal pay for equal work, expand opportunities for women in nontraditional fields, and ensure the development of fundamental legal principles of equal opportunity. She uses a number of advocacy strategies in her work on these issues ranging from public education and legislative advocacy to litigation, including briefs in the Supreme Court and federal courts of appeals. Prior to joining the Center, she worked as an appellate and trial litigator at Mayer Brown LLP. She began her career as a law clerk for the Honorable Diane P. Wood of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Ms. Goss Graves is a graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles and Yale Law School.

My Take

Title VII’s Disparate Impact Doctrine: The Difference It’s Made for Women

This post was cross-posted from ACSBlog.

This week the Senate HELP Committee will vote on the nomination of Thomas Perez to be the next Secretary of Labor. In the midst of the many unfair and unfounded attacks lobbed against Mr. Perez in recent weeks, an important legal doctrine for combating sex discrimination has also come under attack: disparate impact. Under Mr. Perez’s leadership as the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the Department of Justice, the Department has employed the longstanding disparate impact analysis to combat employment discrimination. Its application is not only legally sound, but exceptionally important to eliminate discrimination and further justice.

The Supreme Court and Congress have long made clear that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act “prohibits employers from using employment practices that cause a disparate impact” based on sex and other protected classes. The doctrine of disparate impact allows for a remedy when an employment practice that may be neutral on its face has an unjustified adverse effect on members of a protected class.

Disparate impact has been crucial to addressing entrenched discriminatory employment practices. Indeed, women’s entry into high-wage, nontraditional occupations has been made possible in large part by challenges to unfortunate employment practices that disproportionately disadvantage women, which would have otherwise remained unchanged but for the Title VII’s disparate impact doctrine. Courts, for example, have struck down height, weight or strength requirements implemented by employers in police departments, fire departments, in construction and in correctional facilities because the requirements were not related to job performance, but instead reflected stereotypes about the skills required for a position. Moreover, there are often alternative practices that may both satisfy job performance demands and allow for a diverse workforce.

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Equal Pay Day 2013: How Long Will it Take?

Posted by Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment | Posted on: April 09, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Last year I had the pleasure of meeting AnnMarie Duchon. She testified before the House Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee that after learning she was being paid unfairly she was able to confirm the information with her coworkers and negotiate with her boss for a salary increase. Pretty impressive, right?

But unfortunately, the conversations had by AnnMarie would be banned in a lot of workplaces. In fact, a 2010 IWPR poll found that around half of private sector workers believe that they cannot share their salaries.

Policies and practices that keep women in the dark about pay disparities diminish their ability to enforce their rights to fair pay and allow unfair pay practices to flourish. My best evidence? Lilly Ledbetter. Goodyear, a federal contractor, had one of these insane punitive pay secrecy policies and Lilly Ledbetter worked there almost 20 years before learning that she was being paid less than her male coworkers. In case you’re counting, the money she lost not only hurt her ability to pay for basics like groceries and utilities, she is still losing money to this day because the discriminatory pay is reflected in her retirement.

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Celebrating National Girls and Women in Sports Day

Posted by Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment | Posted on: February 06, 2013 at 02:19 pm

This guest-post was written by Dominique Dawes and is cross-posted from on Fitness.gov.

Dominique Dawes
Dominique Dawes

Today is National Girls and Women in Sports Day! Each year, this observance provides us with a tremendous opportunity to help get more girls in the game, and make a significant investment in the future of our Nation. I am proud to serve as co-chair of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition and sound the alarm about the importance of ensuring equitable physical activity opportunities for all Americans.

Throughout my life, I have been transformed and inspired by sports. Since the first time I tumbled into a gymnasium at six years old to becoming an Olympic gold medalist, I was motivated and excited by the opportunities presented to me as an athlete and a coach. I owe my participation and success in gymnastics (and so much more) to the passage of Title IX of the Education Act of 1972, which has transformed the lives of millions of girls by granting them greater access to participate in sports.

One amazing example of making this investment is in Daly City, California with the Benjamin Franklin Middle School girls’ basketball team. Their coach is 28-year-old Sarah Egan, who in addition to teaching social studies also teaches how to dribble, make layups, and block. The school has mostly low-income students from immigrant families, and Sarah faces significant challenges with her athletes.

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Sarah Egan's Story: More Than a Team

Posted by Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment | Posted on: February 05, 2013 at 06:03 pm

This guest-post was written by Sarah Egan and featured on Fitness.gov.

Come to the blacktop at my middle school and hang out for a couple of hours. You'll get a sense of what 12-to-14-year olds like and how they act. For them this is the center of the world.

When I started teaching in 2009, I watched life unfold on the asphalt. During recess and before and after school, the boys took center stage on all four basketball courts — dribbling, pivoting, guarding, pushing, blocking, faking, jumping, dunking, high fiving and taunting each other. They were agile and fast. The girls talked to each other and watched the boys from the perimeter of the tarmac. My instinct had always been to jump right into the action! Why weren't these girls playing on the blacktop? Why didn't they join the boys or take control of a court themselves?

I teach U.S. and world history to 200 7th & 8th graders in Daly City, California, just south of San Francisco. It's a low-income school and close to 80 percent of the students are new immigrants — from Central and South America, Mexico, Russia, Vietnam, the Philippines and other countries. It's tough coming up with a lesson that connects to such a diverse audience. Recently I compared the Declaration of Independence to a break-up letter between a girlfriend and boyfriend. The colonialists listed all the reasons for breaking up with the King of England. This approach totally worked and the kids were hooked!

Three months into the job, the athletic director asked if I'd coach one of the girls' basketball teams — in addition to teaching social studies. Frankly, I was overwhelmed. I hadn't anticipated how difficult teaching would be — especially at a school where kids show up in the morning stressed out.

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I'm Lilly Ledbetter and I Approve This Message

Posted by Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment | Posted on: January 29, 2013 at 02:45 pm

This guest-post was written by Lilly Ledbetter.

President Obama and Lilly Ledbetter
President Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

Four years ago today, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — giving more women the opportunity to challenge pay discrimination in the workplace. That day was incredibly gratifying for me personally, since it meant that no other woman or man would suffer the injustice of learning that they had been paid unfairly for years, and then being told it was simply too late to do anything about it.

Ensuring that women have the tools they need to address pay discrimination is just as important now as it was then. In fact, the wage gap between men and women hasn’t budged in the last ten years, with women still earning 77 cents on average for every dollar earned by the typical man, and that number is worse for women of color. Even a college degree fails to close the gap — a recent AAUW report showed that the wage gap is present at college graduation with women making, on average, 82% of what a man makes.

Numbers and statistics about the progress for women in some areas, and lack thereof in others, made headlines in the 2012 — from the record number of women in Congress to a pointed debate question about the persistence of the wage gap.

To commemorate the fourth anniversary of the Fair Pay Act, here are four facts impacting the fight for equal pay for equal work today:

Four: As I said at the Democratic National Convention [video] in September, what a difference four years make! On January 29, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — the first law passed during his presidency. The law ensures that everyone who experiences pay discrimination gets their day in court by restarting the time limit to file a claim with each discriminatory paycheck.

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