When I was a teenager road constructions signs around my town read: “MEN WORKING.” I wrote our local newspaper outraged about the message that sends to women and girls: good-paying construction jobs are not jobs for women. Friends told me not to worry – those signs weren’t such a big deal. But the hard truth is that occupational segregation is very bad for women.
Those “MEN WORKING” signs remain a pretty darn accurate reflection of who actually works in construction. In fact, women made up the same measly percentage of workers in construction trades and related occupations in 2010 that they did in 1983 – 2.6%!
Last week we submitted comments in opposition to The Working Families Flexibility Act, the “comp time in lieu of overtime” bill that went to the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Workforce Protections for a markup last Wednesday. And now we can’t get the song “Promises, Promises” out of our heads.
You made me promises, promises You knew you'd never keep Promises, promises Why do I believe?
The Working Families Flexibility Act is filled with empty promises. Instead of providing flexibility, it would take hard-earned overtime pay out of workers’ pockets in exchange for the elusive promise of compensatory time off. While the bill’s supporters claim that there is nothing coercive about offering a comp time alternative to overtime pay, they do so against a backdrop of rampant violations of low-wage workers’ rights to overtime. In a study of low-wage workers in major cities, 76% said they worked overtime without being paid time and one-half. It is a safe bet that enacting a comp time law would give rise to a whole new category of wage and hour abuses. Read more »
Great news! Yesterday, a bill that will protect pregnant workers who need workplace accommodations passed in Maryland. This victory is due to the hard work of local advocates, especially the ACLU of Maryland. Now, when pregnant workers in Maryland need a simple accommodation to be able to continue to work safely – for example, a stool to sit on, or more frequent bathroom breaks – they will have clear-cut legal protection from being forced onto unpaid leave or even terminated. We have already seen the success of laws like these in protecting pregnant workers in states like California. Plus, experience shows accommodating pregnant workers, like accommodating individuals with disabilities, can be good for the bottom line. As a Maryland resident, I am very proud of my state. Read more »
I walked into a crowded room on Capitol Hill this week to witness my first congressional press conference. Senator Tom Harkin and Representative George Miller were enthusiastic about their legislation that would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10.
I’ll be graduating from college in a few months, and I’m looking for my first job. But the issue of minimum wage isn’t something I’ve been thinking about. As a college graduate, I’ve been assuming that I’ll be able to find a job that pays well, despite the shaky economy. Amie Crawford, a college graduate and fast-food worker from Chicago stood at the podium and described what it’s like to work hard prepping food for the public but not have enough money to buy food for herself. I was stunned. Amie’s story made me wonder about the millions of other hard-working women who cut back on food, drop their health insurance, and go without child care in order to get by on a minimum wage salary. And I thought about their kids who might go to bed hungry.
Sheryl Sandberg is telling women to “lean in.” She's encouraging us to strive for bigger and better jobs. She's telling us to resist “leaving before we leave” in anticipation of having families. Through her “lean in circles,” women will have opportunities to share success stories about how leaning in to their careers, while also having families, worked for them.
Here’s the problem: “Leaning in” any further is not an option for most low-wage working women, any more than choosing to leave their jobs is an option. They’re already leaning in, with all their might.
Suits is really going in on this gender discrimination storyline – are you as obsessed with it as I am? Last night, the drama escalated: in addition to litigating a class action against Folsom Foods, Pearson Hardman has the table turned on itself as an old partner from the firm names Jessica Pearson herself in a gender discrimination suit.
Here’s where it gets interesting: Daniel Hardman, the scheming lawyer leading the charge, relies on the same sexist stereotypes about women to make his case against Jessica. He accuses her of being jealous of the younger associate and of thinking less of female employees who choose to have children. Women in the workplace often get caught in this double-bind: either thought to be un-ladylike due their ambition, or accused of being not committed enough when they have children. Hardman’s argument also relies on an equally tired story about women managers discriminating against women in the workplace. Read more »
The law is very clear: you can’t fire a woman simply because she’s pregnant. You can’t force her onto unpaid “medical” leave when she’s capable of doing her job. You can’t discriminate against her, period, even if your customers would prefer not seeing pregnant women in the workplace. You have to treat her as well as you treat other workers who are similar in their ability or inability to work.
Yet despite these basic black-letter rules—enshrined thirty-five years ago in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)—employers often violate them, especially when it comes to pregnant women in low-wage jobs—women who have the fewest resources to fall back on if they lose their paychecks and the most difficulty finding help to enforce the laws that protect them. Read more »
Given the fact that the anniversary of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was yesterday, it seems only fitting that this past week’s episode of NBC’s Parks & Recreation focused on gender equality in the workplace.
For those unfamiliar with the show, Parks & Recreation (or Parks & Rec, as it is known lovingly among its fan base) is about Leslie Knope, a mid-level government employee in a small town in Indiana. She is dedicated to her job and the town she grew up in, and many feminists and TV fans have lauded the show as an example of a great feminist character. And for good reason – Leslie is dedicated, passionate, and very human (she has an absolutely adorable relationship with her fiancée, Ben, and a deep love of waffles and whipped cream that I can 100% relate to). Leslie has grown from simply a government employee to a City Council Member, and she aspires to climb the ranks all the way to President. Plus, the show is just absolutely hilarious.
This week, the episode opened with the ladies of the Pawnee, Indiana Parks Department in a meeting with the first female city councilmember. She lamented about the fact that her male counterparts used to keep a calendar of her menstrual cycles – something that sounds beefed up for the sake of comedy, but actually hits closer to hope than you might think: In October, CNN posted (and quickly took down) a story saying that hormones can make female voters vote more liberally because it makes them “feel sexier.” 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 »
Arjun Sethi and NWLC’s recent article on CNN.com describes pregnant workers’ struggles to hold onto their jobs and have healthy pregnancies, after their requests for minor adjustments to their job duties – adjustments they needed to continue safely working during pregnancy – were denied by their employers. These workers had the audacity to ask for permission to: carry a water bottle, have a stool to sit down, avoid lifting heavy objects, and take bathroom breaks.
For those of us who are lucky enough to work in places that routinely accommodate such requests, or where we don’t have to ask to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water, it can be hard to imagine what it’s like to be pregnant and get fired for following doctor’s orders to stay hydrated, off our feet or follow a lifting restriction.
But that’s exactly what’s happening to some pregnant workers in physically demanding and nontraditional jobs. All too often, employers are quite willing to provide an accommodation to a worker who is injured on the job or has a disability, but insist on denying an accommodation to a pregnant worker. Read more »