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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

Getting the Government's House in Order

Posted by Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment | Posted on: May 17, 2013 at 02:30 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 12:53 pm

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.


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.


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

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.