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During Equal Pay Week, Minnesota House of Representatives Takes Bipartisan Action to Promote Women's Economic Security

Yesterday, in a bipartisan vote of 106-24, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed the Women’s Economic Security Act. This comprehensive bill includes a range of important reforms to promote workplace equality for the state’s women, and enhance economic security for them and their families, such as:

  • Enabling women to learn if they are experiencing pay discrimination without fear of retaliation;
  • Ensuring that businesses that contract with the state government comply with equal pay standards;
  • Promoting women’s access to high-wage, high-demand jobs and the development of women-owned businesses;

Women's Employment Update: Despite job gains, women's unemployment rate increased and long-term unemployment remains high

March’s jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was showed stronger job growth than the previous two months. The economy added 192,000 jobs in March and over half of those jobs (99,000) were gained by women. But as we’ve seen during the recovery overall, the jobs added were disproportionately in low-wage sectors. Not only that, but women’s unemployment rate ticked up last month to 6.2 percent from 5.9 percent in February and the share of unemployed adult women who have been searching for a job for six months or more remained historically high at nearly four in ten. Here are some more key indicators about the state of women and the economy in March: Read more »

NWLC Releases New Report! Reality Check: Seventeen Million Reasons Low-Wage Workers Need Strong Protections from Harassment

Did you know that a narrowly divided 5 to 4 Supreme Court recently watered down protections for victims of workplace harassment? More than 15 years ago, the Supreme Court recognized the potential for supervisors to abuse their power over their subordinates and employers’ responsibility to prevent that abuse. And the Court put in place strong protections from harassment by a supervisor. But the Court’s recent decision in Vance v. Ball State University [PDF] rolled back those protections by including within their reach only supervisors with the power to take actions like hiring and firing. The Vance decision said that supervisors who direct daily work are now mere coworkers in the eyes of the law, and must bring their cases under the much more difficult standard that applies to coworker harassment claims. Now workers will have a much harder time holding their employers accountable for harassment committed by lower-level supervisors who assign tasks, set schedules, and control other aspects of their day-to-day work. As Justice Ginsburg noted in her dissent, the decision was “blind to the realities of the workplace.”

Reality Check: Seventeen Million Reasons Low-Wage Workers Need Strong Protections from Harassment, released today by NWLC, highlights three particularly important workplace realities: Read more »

The Raiderettes Want Their Day In Court — Will They Get It?

The Oakland Raiders have been in the news this week . . . and it isn’t because of their newest draft picks.

In January, the Oakland Raiders cheerleaders, the Raiderettes, filed a class-action lawsuit [PDF] alleging that the Raiders have broken a long list of California employment laws, including underpaying wages, withholding wages, and forcing cheerleaders to pay expenses the team mandates they incur. One of the cheerleaders, Lacy, alleges that she spent months working, training, and rehearsing without a paycheck. She explains that the Raiders never paid her minimum wage or overtime and that they did not provide meal or rest breaks during an eight-hour-plus shift. The complaint also alleges that the Raiders require the Raiderettes to use a hairstylist they select—and that the cheerleaders must pay for it out of pocket on their $125-per-game payments. This equals out to $1,250 for an entire season and amounts to less than $5 an hour for all the work required for the job. The cheerleaders receive no payment for mandatory practices, rehearsals, fittings, drills, photo sessions, meetings, and workouts. While not being paid for these events, the cheerleaders can be fined for being late, or for not having the appropriate nail polish color. The list goes on and on. And in response to these egregious working conditions, the cheerleaders simply want their day in court to enforce their rights under the law. Read more »

Did You Read Your Employment Contract?

So you are starting a new job. Congratulations! You are probably going to be handed a bunch of paperwork and told to read through it. Do you? If you are like me, you might not read too carefully. You might just sign it. If you are lucky, it will never come up again. But, if something does go wrong, you may have unknowingly agreed to waive your right to have future claims against your employer heard by a judge or jury.

The Federal Arbitration Act, was originally intended to apply to disputes between companies of similar sophistication and bargaining power, but a series of court decisions have broadened its scope and it is now used by employers and corporations to keep their employees out of court. Why does it matter?

Here are just a few reasons. Businesses are repeat players in arbitration, and usually choose the arbitrator. Most forced arbitration clauses prohibit class actions. Arbitration is often prohibitively expensive for individuals, and damages received by plaintiffs in arbitration are much lower-- on average about ½ of what courts would bestow. Research shows that arbitration results in more wins [PDF] for businesses then in court. Read more »

Congress Acts to Restore Strong Protections from Workplace Harassment

When the person at work who has the authority to give you assignments and oversee your performance sexually harasses you, should your employer have a heightened legal responsibility to protect you from the harassment?

Surprisingly, right now the answer may be no. Recently a narrow majority of the Supreme Court said that if you are harassed by someone who directs your daily work but does not have the power to hire or fire you, then it will be more difficult for you to hold your employer responsible. Fortunately, now there is legislation in the U.S. Congress to correct this artificial distinction between superiors who can hire and fire and those who can only direct daily work activities – the Fair Employment Protection Act. Read more »

Fair Employment Protection Act Introduced!

On March 13, 2014 Senator Tammy Baldwin, Senator Tom Harkin, Congressman George Miller, and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro introduced the Fair Employment Protection Act, (S.2133, H.R. 4227) with 12 original cosponsors in the Senate, and 24 original cosponsors in the House. The Fair Employment Protection Act is a commonsense bill to provide strong protections from workplace harassment. Read more »

President Obama's Budget Expands Investments in Infrastructure and Manufacturing - But Women Are Falling Behind

The President’s budget proposes billions for infrastructure and manufacturing – critical job investments for both women and men. For this investment to pay off for working families, we need to prioritize programs that move women into nontraditional, higher paying jobs. Yet the budget simultaneously eliminates the Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO) program.

WANTO supports community-based organizations that provide training to women in pre-apprenticeship programs and technical assistance to employers and labor unions. WANTO promotes nontraditional occupations for women and provides support for women’s success in the trades. Eliminating WANTO may slow women’s entrance into traditionally male-dominated fields, and leaves vulnerable the organizations who received support through WANTO for almost a decade. Women are already losing traction in these fields, accounting for just 10 percent of the gains in the 272,000 jobs added in the construction and manufacturing industries in the last year, despite comprising 22 percent of these industries. Read more »

Maryland's Fair Employment Preservation Act: Restoring Strong Protections From Supervisor Harassment

Lynette Harris, a maintenance technician, brought a sexual harassment suit against the City of Baltimore’s Department of Public Works in 2006. She alleged that male coworkers and supervisors referred to her and other women as “bitches” and used other derogatory terms on almost a daily basis, that she was repeatedly exposed to provocative photos of women in common areas at work, and that sexually explicit conversations were common in the workplace. The court held that Harris was entitled to a trial on her claims of supervisor harassment because several of her harassers were able to exert control over her routine work assignments, even though it was unclear whether her supervisors had the power to hire and fire her.

But, as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision last June in Vance v. Ball State University, courts across the country will be forced to restrict the definition of supervisor to only those with the power to hire and fire, and the like. This means that employers will no longer have a heightened legal obligation to protect against harassment by lower-level supervisors who direct daily work activities but are not authorized to take actions like hiring and firing – and that employees harassed by lower-level supervisors will have to bring their claims under the far tougher standard that applies to cases of coworker harassment. Read more »

Women’s Employment Update: In a Weak January, Women Lost 51,000 Jobs, Mostly in the Public Sector

January’s jobs numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics were worse than analysts predicted and especially bad for women. Despite higher expectations, it turns out that the economy added only 113,000 jobs last month. What’s more, women actually lost 51,000 jobs and men captured all of the job gains, adding 164,000 jobs.

Breaking down the jobs numbers:

  • The majority of women’s losses were in the public sector (-30,000). The other biggest losses for women came in the professional and business services sector (-14,000), and retail (-5,000).
    • Women’s public sector losses continued a distressing recent trend: women have lost public sector jobs every month since September. In fact, women have accounted for all of 51,000 public sector jobs lost since September.
    • Detailed public sector information is not yet available by sex for January, but we know that of the total public sector losses (-29,000), there were losses at every level of government: federal (-12,000), state (-6,000), and local (-11,000). The greatest losses were in local government education (-8,700) and as of December 2013, women made up 73 percent of those workers.
    • Women’s gains in January were minor – their largest job gains were in construction and leisure and hospitality, with 3,000 additional jobs in each. Men outpaced women in both industries, with 45,000 construction and 21,000 leisure and hospitality jobs added in January.
    • Last month, I told you that women captured all of December’s weak job growth. But revised data for December released today show that women actually gained only 36,000 of the 75,000 jobs added in December—less than half of all the jobs added.