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Liz Watson, Senior Counsel and Director of Workplace Justice for Women

Liz Watson, Senior Counsel

Liz Watson is Director of Workplace Justice for Women and Senior Counsel to the Education and Employment and Cross-cutting Teams at the National Women's Law Center. Liz focuses on ending workplace discrimination and combating the erosion of wages and working conditions in jobs at the bottom of the labor market, which are most often held by women. Liz's work includes a particular focus on achieving workplace policies that allow low-wage workers with family responsibilities to both succeed at work and in caring for their families. In 2013, Liz coauthored It Shouldn't Be A Heavy Lift: Fair Treatment for Pregnant Workers, a report highlighting the persistence of pregnancy discrimination against women in low-wage and physically-demanding jobs, and employers' all too frequent failure to accommodate pregnancy in the workplace. Also in 2013, Liz coauthored 50 Years & Counting: The Unfinished Business of Achieving Fair Pay. Before coming to the Center, Liz was Executive Director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy where she led public policy initiatives focused on improving policies and programs that address the needs of low-income workers and marginalized girls and young women. Prior to that, she was legislative counsel for Workplace Flexibility 2010 at Georgetown Law, where much of her work focused on developing policy solutions to work-family conflict and its consequences for low-wage workers. She also practiced employment law at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. Liz began her career as a Skadden Public Interest Law Fellow, working with low-wage workers and women receiving public benefits in New York City. She served as a law clerk to the Honorable Susan Y. Illston of the Northern District of California. Liz is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and Carleton College. 

My Take

NWLC Testifies on the Need for Adequate Funding for Implementation of D.C.’s Protecting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Yesterday, Elizabeth Johnston from the National Women’s Law Center testified before the Council of the District of Columbia Committee on Bus­iness, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs in support of adequate funding to implement the Protecting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which was enacted last year. The new law ensures that pregnant workers in D.C. may no longer be forced to choose between their health and their jobs. It does so by requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers who need them to continue safely working during pregnancy, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer. However, the promise of this law can only be fully realized with sufficient funding for public education, outreach and enforcement.

While the vast majority of women can work throughout their pregnancies without needing any adjustments to their work rules or job duties, at some point during pregnancy some workers may have a need for temporary adjustments to their job duties that will allow them to continue working safely and supporting their growing families. The new law ensures that employers provide the same rights and reasonable accommodations for pregnant women as are available to workers with temporary disabilities or injuries. 

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New Issue Brief Highlights Wage Gap for Marylanders

Posted by Liz Watson, Senior Counsel and Director of Workplace Justice for Women | Posted on: April 14, 2015 at 03:40 pm

Today I met Lily. No, not Lilly Ledbetter — four-month old Lily whose mom, Sara Wilkinson, President of Maryland NOW, spoke at an (un)Equal Pay Day event in Baltimore.

At the current rate of progress, the Institute for Women's Policy Research projects that Lily and other baby girls born in Maryland this year will face a wage gap until they are 27. And, in case you wondered, Lily’s mom says that is absolutely not ok.

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New Fact Sheet Outlines the Latest Legislative Developments in the Movement for Fair Work Schedules

There is a growing movement across our nation for fair work schedules. This movement is spurred by women like Hilaria Bonilla, a single mother, who testified in a hearing on Maryland’s fair work schedules bill [PDF] about the consequences to her family of an extremely difficult work schedule. She has worked for her employer for more than a decade and earns only $11 per hour. Getting only one week’s notice of her schedule makes it extremely difficult for Ms. Bonilla to be involved in her 10 year old daughter’s school or to make doctor’s appointments for herself or her daughter. Despite having asked not to work nights, she is routinely assigned to the night shift. Ms. Bonilla testified that having more notice and more of a say in when she works would make all the difference to her ability to care for her daughter.

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Maryland's Fair Employment Preservation Act Would Restore Strong Protections from Harassment

Sexual harassment remains a pervasive problem in the American workplace, with one in four women reporting being harassed on the job. Yet, in 2013, in Vance v. Ball State University, a narrow 5-to-4 majority of the Supreme Court watered down workplace protections from harassment. On Wednesday, the Maryland House Committee on Health and Government Oversight considered the Fair Employment Preservation Act (HB 42, SB 527)—a bill introduced by Delegate Rosenberg and Senator Raskin that would restore the strong protections from harassment that workers need. Adaku was there to testify for NWLC in support of this important legislation.

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Take It From POTUS: It’s Time to Lead on Leave

Yesterday, the White House announced  it would take important steps toward ensuring that workers have the right to earn up to seven paid sick days a year and paid family and medical leave to care for their families. Specifically, the White House plans to call on Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act and on states and cities to pass similar laws; provide new funding to help states design their own paid family and medical leave programs; and increase the paid sick days and family and medical leave benefits available to federal employees.

This initiative will help all workers, but will be especially meaningful to women who still shoulder the lion’s share of caregiving responsibilities. With more families counting on women’s wages than ever before, both women and men need to be able to take time off from work to welcome a new baby, to care for a sick child or elderly parent, or to address their own medical needs without suffering financial hardship as a result. As the President noted, “[N]o matter how sick they are, or how sick a family member is, they may find themselves having to choose to be able to buy groceries or pay the rent, or look after themselves or their children." 

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