The law directly conflicted with the federal health care law’s contraceptive coverage requirement, which requires all new health insurance plans to cover contraceptives with no co-pay. In his announcement, the Attorney General aptly stated, “the attempt to deny contraceptive coverage to women in Missouri is just plain foolishness” and “cannot be supported by case law or sound policy.” Read more »
Although we have turned the calendar page, here’s one last piece from the U.S. Courts website about women in the federal judiciary in honor of Women’s History Month. The article offers a nice bit of historical perspective with information about the first female federal judges, and an infographic that demonstrates the huge – and ongoing -- gap between the number of women law students and the number of women on the bench. Read more »
It's marriage equality week! Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear arguments challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8, which revoked same-sex couples' right to marry in California. The day after that, the Court will consider the constitutionality of Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which provides that same-sex married couples cannot be considered "married" under federal law. There are lots of reasons why we will be watching these cases closely. In human terms, both cases have could have a dramatic impact on the lives of same-sex couples. Indeed, they have the potential to be historic civil rights milestones — moments when the arc of the universe curves toward justice. Read more »
Last Friday, Caitlin Halligan, the highly qualified nominee to the D.C. Circuit who had been subjected to two filibusters, asked the President to withdraw her name. Despite her impeccable qualifications and the bipartisan support of her peers, the legal and law enforcement community, and numerous organizations across the country, and despite the fact that four out of the eleven seats on the D.C. Circuit are vacant, every Republican Senator except Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski refused to allow an up-or-down vote on her nomination. Read more »
In a win for workers everywhere, last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied Wells Fargo’s petition for a writ of mandamus in a case involving the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) collective action mechanism.
Okay, a writ of mandamus is just a fancy way of telling someone to do something. In seeking a writ of mandamus, Wells Fargo was asking the Fifth Circuit to tell the district court in Texas that it messed up and needed to try again. And in denying the petition, the Fifth Circuit politely said “thanks, but no thanks.”
So what’s the issue here? Well, the FLSA requires that certain employees be paid overtime for any works weeks over 40 hours. And the collective action mechanism in the FLSA allows workers to bring lawsuits on behalf of themselves and others to enforce this law.
The National Women’s Law Center filed an amicus brief urging the court to deny Wells Fargo’s motion for the writ (so: yay, we won!). We explained why collective actions are essential to women workers’ claims under the Equal Pay Act (EPA), an amendment to the FLSA, and why the way the district court handled the case was appropriate. Read more »
March is Women's History Month, which affords us the opportunity to reflect on how far we've come in this country, and how far we have yet to go. And in many respects, recent events in the Congress illustrate both themes. For example, the last day of February, the Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, with even stronger protections for Native American, immigrant, and LGBT women. Yet it was a long and hard-fought battle, despite this law's proven effectiveness is combating domestic violence and the overwhelming bipartisan support the law has enjoyed over time.
Another example? Diversity on our federal courts. President Obama’s Administration has nominated more women and people of color for judgeships than any previous Administration in history. President Obama already has appointed more minority women judges than President Bush or President Clinton. As a result, the percentage of active women judges on the federal bench has increased from slightly above 25% to over 30% since 2009. For the first time in history, moreover, three women serve on the Supreme Court at one time. And of course, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's first nominee to the Supreme Court, became the first Hispanic to sit on the highest court in the land. Read more »
Yesterday, the Washington Post published an op-ed by former D.C. Circuit Judge Patricia M. Wald. As Judge Wald put it, in short, “The D.C. Circuit has 11 judgeships but only seven active judges. There is cause for extreme concern that Congress is systematically denying the court the human resources it needs to carry out its weighty mandates.” Read more »
For forty years, the Supreme Court has held that the government may not impose laws that treat men and women differently based on an ‘interest’ in perpetuating traditional gender roles. The Court should also hold that the government may not decide who is permitted to marry based on traditional gender stereotypes about who men and women should love, the National Women’s Law Center argued in an amicus brief filed today in Hollingsworth v. Perry—thecase in which the Supreme Court will decide the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the California ballot measure that overturned the California Supreme Court's ruling that same-sex couples have a right to marry. Tomorrow, the Center will file the same brief in United States v. Windsor, the case before the Supreme Courtchallenging the constitutionality of the provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that bars the federal government from recognizing marriages of same-sex couples. Read more »
For the second time, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted today to approve President Obama’s nomination of Caitlin Halligan to fill a vacancy on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Ms. Halligan, a talented appellate lawyer, was first nominated in September 2010, and an outpouring of bipartisan support quickly followed from prominent lawyers, law-enforcement officials, women’s legal organizations, and others from around the country. Even so, a minority of Senators insisted on filibustering her nomination, and they have succeeded in blocking it so far. In the meantime, the number of vacancies on this important court has grown, and now there are an alarming four vacancies on this 11-judge court. Now that the President has resubmitted her nomination, and the Committee has again approved it, it is high time that a confirmation vote is held before the full Senate. Read more »
Peggy Young was a UPS truck driver. When employees at her jobsite needed changes to their job duties because they had a disability, or an on-the-job injury, or even a D.U.I. conviction that prevented them from driving legally, UPS provided it. However, when she asked for light duty in order to avoid heavy lifting for a few months because she was pregnant, her employer refused and forced her onto unpaid leave for the duration of her pregnancy. Unfortunately, last week the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held in United Parcel Service, Inc. v. Young, that in doing so, UPS did not violate the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), despite the PDA’s requirement that employers treat pregnant employees the same as other employees who are “similar in their ability or inability to work.” The court held that taking this language literally would “transform an antidiscrimination statute into a requirement to provide accommodation to pregnant employees” and concluded that Congress did not intend this result. It came to this conclusion even though in passing the PDA, Congress stated, “[W]hen pregnant women are not able to work for medical reasons, they must be accorded the same rights, leave privileges and other benefits, as other workers who are disabled from working.”
The Fourth Circuit’s decision is extremely troubling, but to quote an aptly-titled article on the decision, Pregnancy Bias Fight Not Over, Despite 4th Circ. Ruling. The article notes that because the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was expanded in 2008 to require employers to provide accommodations to workers with temporary disabilities, employers may be “guilty of discrimination for not providing pregnant workers the same accommodations” when they have similar temporary restrictions on their ability to work. Read more »