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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

Dear Colleges and Universities, Fisher v. UT Austin Did Not Eliminate Affirmative Action

Posted by Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment | Posted on: June 25, 2013 at 03:00 pm

The best thing about the last week of the Supreme Court's term is that the waiting ends and we can move from predictions (gloomy or otherwise) to analysis.

Here's the bottomline from the much anticipated Fisher v. UT Austin decision — affirmative action in higher education can and should continue (please see our amicus brief for a whole host of reasons why). This is one of those decisions that deserves a close read — I've now done so and have included five key points from the decision that should not go unnoticed. 

  1. Grutter was not overturned. In fact, the Supreme Court followed the decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, that an admissions policy that carefully considers racial and ethnic diversity as one of many factors is constitutional. 
  2. The Court acknowledged the importance of diversity to institutions of higher education. The Court reiterated that it defers to a university's judgment that such diversity is essential to the educational mission. As the Court explained, a diverse student body "serves values beyond race alone, including enhanced classroom dialogue and the lessening of racial isolation and stereotypes." 

Congresswoman DeLauro, Champion of Fair Pay Policies

Posted by Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment | Posted on: June 14, 2013 at 10:15 am

All too often, pay discrimination goes undetected because employers maintain policies that punish employees who dare try to inquire about their salary. These punitive pay secrecy policies mean that employees could be fired, demoted, or otherwise penalized simply for trying to inquire about wages. Unfortunately, research has shown that nearly half of private sector employees believe they will be punished if they dare talk about their wages. 

This week Congresswomen DeLauro tried to do something about these unfair policies. She offered an amendment that would have meant that defense contractors could not retaliate against workers who try to share or inquire about salary information. Who would disagree with that? Well, apparently the House Rules Committee did.


Getting the Government's House in Order

Posted by Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment | Posted on: May 17, 2013 at 01:30 pm

Although the overall wage gap stands at 23 cents when salaries of fulltime male and female workers are compared, it varies by key factors such as industry and occupation. In fact, the wage gap is relatively tiny in some occupations and in others it is startling large. But no matter the industry and no matter the occupation, the gender wage gap persists.  

Here's an interesting fact — in the federal government, the wage gap is much smaller than in the private sector. A GAO report [PDF] has estimated that the gap in wage is about 11 percent. I expect in the coming months that there will be a lot more attention on the wage gap among federal workers. Why? Because the President has a new memorandum ordering the Office of Personnel Management to submit "a Government-wide strategy to address any gender pay gap in the Federal workforce." The order states that the government-wide strategy should include analysis of the ways in which alterations to the federal government's pay scales could reduce the wage gap and directs agencies to consider ways to promote greater transparency.  


Vermont’s New Equal Pay Law – A Challenge to Policymakers

Posted by Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment | Posted on: May 16, 2013 at 11:53 am

Next month is the 50th Anniversary of the Equal Pay Act. And this week Vermont is showing policymakers around the country the best way to mark that day: fixing the equal pay laws. Vermont’s governor has signed a new, comprehensive equal pay law that targets a range of factors that contribute to the wage gap.

The new law takes care of some of the loop holes in Vermont’s equal pay statute, requiring that employers must have business reasons for paying workers unequal wages.

It also improves the process for ensuring that state government contractors are paying fair wages. And it goes after the pay penalty paid by mothers as well – it provides protections for new mothers who must express breast milk for their babies at work and includes protections for employees who request flexible work arrangements. It also sets the stage for a future paid family leave law in Vermont.  

Finally, it importantly bans retaliation against employees who talk about their wages.


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.