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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

Serving Up the Truth About Sexual Harassment, With a Side of Commonsense

Posted by Liz Watson, Senior Counsel and Director of Workplace Justice for Women | Posted on: June 24, 2014 at 10:34 am

Written by Nikki Lewis, Executive Director, DC Jobs with Justice, and Liz Watson, Senior Counsel and Director of Workplace Justice for Women, NWLC

What do you call the person who can make you stay late at work, who decides who works the night shift and who works days, who works the cash register and who cleans the toilets? You call that person the boss. But exactly one year ago today, the Supreme Court said that if the person who directs your daily work harasses you, unless they also have the power to hire and fire you, the strong protections that are supposed to kick in when bosses harass their subordinates do not apply.

Right about now, you might be scratching your head thinking that this doesn’t make any sense. And you would be right. But let us explain how we ended up with this terrible rule and what can be done about it.

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A Tale of Two Macy's

Posted by Liz Watson, Senior Counsel and Director of Workplace Justice for Women | Posted on: June 23, 2014 at 04:47 pm

Earlier today, I caught up with Kay Thompson and Sasha Hammad during a break at the White House Summit on Working Families. Kay spoke at the Summit about what having a predicable full-time schedule and a say in the timing of her work hours has meant for her family. Sasha Hammad is director of the Retail Action Project, and is fighting to secure these same protections for all retail workers in New York City.

Liz: Kay, you mentioned you work at Macy’s.

Kay: Yes, I work at Macy’s in Herald’s Square in the domestics department. And I’m a proud member of Local 1-S of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union/UFCW.

Liz: And what does your work schedule there look like?

Kay: Thanks to my collective bargaining agreement, my schedule guarantees me the right to choose my days off six months in advance, and determine which days I am available to come in early and which days I can work late. Even during the holiday season, I get my schedule three weeks in advance.

Liz: From your remarks in there, it sounds like this schedule has made a big difference to you and your family.

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EEOC Plays Crucial Role in Rooting Out Workplace Discrimination

Yesterday the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections held a hearing on “The Regulatory and Enforcement Priorities of the EEOC.”

As witness Sherilynn Ifill, President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, noted, fifty years after passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, discrimination is still an all too common workplace reality. [PDF]

Addressing this persistent problem requires a strategic approach to enforcing our nation’s nondiscrimination laws. And that is exactly the approach the EEOC has taken through its Strategic Enforcement Plan, which identified priority areas for enforcement. Importantly, during its development of the Plan, the EEOC sought input from a wide range of stakeholders on the priority areas of focus for its enforcement efforts.

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Senator Warren Calls for Innovation to Address Unfair Scheduling Practices

At Tuesday’s HELP Committee hearing on women’s economic security Senator Warren called attention to the extreme challenges  workers in low-wage jobs with unstable and unpredictable schedules often face – including the challenge of getting their schedules at the last minute, having hours that vary dramatically from week to week or month to month, having little ability to alter the timing of their work hours without facing a penalty, and working too few hours to make ends meet.

Senator Warren said: “[the lack of predictable work schedules and hours] makes juggling a family, a home and work for many people almost impossible” (you can watch her here starting at 1:46). Amanda Legros, a worker from New York, put the problem in stark relief when she described her own struggle [PDF] to try to get enough hours at work to make ends meet while parenting a young child.

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The Collateral Damage of Scheduling Challenges in Low-Wage Jobs

When policymakers discuss solutions to help nearly 20 million low-wage workers make ends meet, the focus is often on raising wages. Raising the minimum wage and tipped minimum wage would go a long way to help these workers, but policymakers should also be concerned about curbing abusive scheduling practices that create incredible uncertainty for workers and their families about whether they will be given enough hours on the schedule to make ends meet and the timing of those hours.  

Women are disproportionately affected by challenging work schedules because women hold the majority of low-wage jobs and often have significant caregiving responsibilities outside of work, but men in low-wage jobs also suffer as a result of often difficult, and sometimes abusive work scheduling practices. A new issue brief recently released by NWLC describes five of the most common scheduling challenges faced by workers in low-wage jobs and the collateral damage they impose on workers and their families. Here are some highlights:

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