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Pregnant Workers Look to Congress to Strengthen Supreme Court Win

Cross-posted from ACSLaw's blog

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court delivered an important victory for pregnant workers [PDF] when in a 6-3 ruling it revived Peggy Young’s pregnancy discrimination case against UPS and sent it back to the lower courts for further proceedings. In so ruling, the Supreme Court declined UPS’s invitation to read a key piece of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act completely out of the statute books. This decision should put employers on notice that when they exclude pregnant workers with medical needs from accommodations that they make for workers with disabilities or injuries, they do so at their legal peril. Nevertheless, the Court’s decision also requires a somewhat unpredictable and fact-intensive analysis of these sorts of pregnancy discrimination claims. As a result, individual pregnant women may still face real uncertainty as to their workplace rights, and individual employers may choose to take their chances in litigation rather than promptly providing accommodations to women who need them. Congress should act now to affirm and strengthen this decision, to ensure that no pregnant woman is forced to choose between her job and the health of her pregnancy. Read more »

Seventh Circuit Will Once Again Review Notre Dame Challenge to the Accommodation

Last Monday, the Supreme Court issued what is known as a GVR, or “Grant, Vacate and Remand” order. The order instructs the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby last summer, to reconsider its decision from February of last year that rejected the University of Notre Dame’s challenge to the federal birth control benefit. The Seventh Circuit will review Notre Dame’s challenge next month, Wednesday, April 22nd.

What exactly is Notre Dame challenging? Glad you asked. The birth control coverage benefit, a provision of the Affordable Care Act, requires insurance coverage of the full range of FDA-approved methods of birth control, sterilization, and related education and counseling. Read more »

NWLC Files Amicus Brief in Support of Marriage Equality

On Thursday, the National Women’s Law Center, along with several women’s organizations and legal scholars, filed an amicus brief in Obergefell v. Hodges and consolidated cases. The brief argues that laws discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, such as the marriage bans at issue in these cases, must be subject to heightened scrutiny under the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee, like laws that discriminate on the basis of sex or race. Such laws rely on outdated, stereotyped gender roles and the Constitution provides strong protection against government efforts to perpetuate them.  Read more »

Can The Supreme Court Take Away Maternity Coverage?

Imagine an insurance market where only 12% of health insurance plans include maternity coverage. Imagine further that if a woman wanted to add maternity coverage, she would have to pay thousands of additional dollars each year and, even then, the insurance would not cover her pregnancy until she passed a one or two year waiting period. If a woman was pregnant when she applied for coverage or had a previous caesarian delivery, she could be denied health insurance.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to imagine, since this was the individual health insurance market in the United States just fifteen months ago.

When LaDonna Appelbaum became pregnant in 2010, she discovered that her health insurance did not cover maternity care — it did not cover any costs related to prenatal care, nor any related to her eventual miscarriage. When she searched for a new policy that would provide these benefits, she was told that she would have to endure a one-year waiting period for pregnancy coverage — and then her premiums would quadruple.

The individual health insurance market failed women like LaDonna before the passage of the Affordable Care Act. On Wednesday, March 4, the Supreme Court will hear a case that could bring those failures back. Read more »

What Are They Thinking? Six States Argue Against Financial Assistance in King v. Burwell—Threatening Nearly 1 Million Women

On March 4th, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in King v. Burwell, a case challenging a core provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Court will decide whether individuals and families will continue to receive tax credits to help purchase insurance on the federally-facilitated health insurance marketplaces. There are currently 37 states that utilize this kind of marketplace.

The loss of tax credits would have dire consequences in these states — we estimate that nearly 7 million women would lose access to affordable coverage. Last year, 86 percent of people who sought coverage in the federally-facilitated marketplaces used tax credits to lower their premiums [PDF], and this year’s enrollees similarly rely on this help. If such a high proportion of Marketplace enrollees lose coverage following the Court’s decision, premiums for remaining enrollees would skyrocket, further destabilizing the market. Read more »

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. Read more »

States Take Aim at Roe

Forty-two years ago the Supreme Court recognized that a woman’s right to decide whether to have an abortion is a fundamental right, and the Court stated in no uncertain terms that “The detriment that the State would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent.” The landmark case changed the lives of millions of American women over the last four decades. And with the right to decide firmly entrenched we all lived happily ever after, right?  Nope. Wrong. Read more »

Mach Mining v. EEOC: When Can an Employer Point Fingers to Avoid Defending Against a Discrimination Charge?

Today, the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Mach Mining v. EEOC, a story about a woman who applied for a position as a miner with Mach Mining and filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) after she was denied the job. The EEOC investigated the company, and sued Mach Mining for systemic hiring discrimination against women on the basis that they have never hired a female miner. And yet the story being told at the Supreme Court today is not the one you think. It’s not about sex discrimination, it’s not about the company’s practices, it’s not about the fact that the share of women in the mining industry has remained shockingly low— less than one half of one percent—for decades, due in large part to the discrimination that blocks women from entering and staying in the field. Instead, the story is about whether the EEOC did enough to conciliate with Mach Mining before suing the company for sex discrimination, and whether that question is even reviewable by the courts. Conciliation is the process by which the EEOC must first attempt an informal resolution with the employer before filing a lawsuit in federal court. Read more »

Sigh of Relief! Arizona’s Restriction on Medication Abortion Remains on Hold

It’s that time of the year – celebrating the holidays with parties, gift-giving, and awkward holiday sweater wearing.

And now women in Arizona have at least one more reason to celebrate – on Monday, the Supreme Court declined to review the Ninth Circuit’s decision blocking a law that would severely restrict abortion access in Arizona. Leaving the Ninth Circuit’s decision intact means women in Arizona will continue to have access to high-quality care that includes medication abortion, which women have been using safely and legally for over 10 years.

Whew! Read more »

When It Comes to Working Women, Young v. UPS May Finally Be the Court’s Chance to Get it Right

Cross-posted from the Alliance for Justice.

In the last couple of years, the Supreme Court has had a lot to say about working women. Unfortunately, none of it has been good.

In the past year and a half alone, the Court has made it harder for women to sue their employers for sexual harassment, limited the rights of home health care workers—who are nearly all women—to organize, and given bosses a religious trump card they can use to quash women’s rights to insurance coverage for birth control. But in the Young v. UPS case, which the Justices heard yesterday, the Court gets another chance to get it right.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s recent record on working women shows just how blind the justices have been to the realities of the workplace. Read more »