Category Archives: Economic Justice

Women’s Law Project Calls for UPMC to Stop Its Challenge to Equal Employment Opportunity Regulations

By Tara R. Pfeifer, WLP Staff Attorney 

Make sure your voice is heard on this issue, please sign this petition.

On February 5, 2014, Susan Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney at the Women’s Law Project (WLP), spoke at a press conference at Pittsburgh City Council and called on the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) to put an end to its legal challenge to equal employment opportunity regulations.  The WLP joined a number of community leaders and civil rights organizations – including the SEIU, members of Pittsburgh City Council, NAACP Pittsburgh Branch, Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network
Service, and Pennsylvania NOW – in taking a stand against UPMC’s efforts to dismantle our country’s affirmative action program for federal contractors.

The issue arose in 2004, when federal auditors sought to review affirmative action plans and inspect personnel records at three UPMC locations (only one of which is still open).  UPMC initiated a legal challenge to the government’s request, taking the position that auditors from the Department of Labor Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, or OFCCP, had no cause to check the personnel records of three hospitals for compliance with affirmative action rules that apply to federal contractors and subcontractors.  UPMC lost its battles at the lower court levels, but is presently asking the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to reverse those lower court rulings.

Before our country had fair employment rules and anti-discrimination regulations, women and minorities were completely locked out of entire occupations, and to this day sex and race discrimination persist, including in the health care sector.  UPMC’s troubling attempt to eviscerate a key component of our nation’s fair employment rules takes us back to the 1950s.  As we learn more about the poison of race and sex discrimination, we are learning that if you care about patient safety, you must care about having a diverse workforce. In particular, in the health care field, workforce diversity is associated with reduced health care disparities and better patient care.  We ask UPMC to stop trying to weaken our nation’s promise of equal opportunity in the workplace and stop trying to threaten the gains that women and minorities have made over the past fifty years.

To make sure your voice is heard on this issue, please sign this petition.

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Filed under Allegheny County, Economic Justice, Employment, Equality, Pittsburgh

Just Harvest Releases Barriers to Benefits Report: PA Health Program Fails to Deliver!

Aly Mance, WLP Intern

Just Harvest recently released their report titled Barriers to Benefits, which shows that Pennsylvania’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is failing to provide Pennsylvanians with the aid that they need.  Their research shows that there are chronic problems in the food stamp application process—particularly with the inability to successfully reach caseworkers and transmit paperwork.  These problems inhibit consumers from obtaining and maintaining benefits, hurting Pennsylvania families.

The numbers are shocking.  Just Harvest’s research found that 85% of their test calls could not reach a human being, and 66% of surveyed Food Stamp consumers reported disconnects while trying to reach caseworkers. 30% of survey participants also reported that the paperwork they provided was not processed in time for their health benefits to continue without interruption.  40% of survey participants reported waiting more than an hour and a half at the office to talk to a caseworker in person.  The numbers are clear: The County Assistance Offices are unable to properly respond to their workload, and it is having a negative impact on Pennsylvanians.

Just Harvest concludes their report with a well-thought out list of recommendations that the state’s Department of Public Welfare should take to improve the ability of citizens to obtain aid through SNAP.  The list of recommendations includes improving the phone systems, creating a system for confirmation notices when paperwork is received and alerts if documents are missing, regularly reporting data on dropped calls or lost documents to the public, increasing staff, and enforcing the standard that caseworkers treat all consumers with dignity and respect.  The Department of Public Welfare should certainly consider and act upon these recommendations in order to improve the SNAP program and better serve PA consumers.

It is important for us to remember, as Just Harvest points out in their mission statement, that “hunger is a symptom of poverty and that poverty is a product of social and economic injustice.”  We need to improve programs like SNAP in order to better the socioeconomic situation of Pennsylvanian women and their families.

For more information on Just Harvest, visit their website at http://www.justharvest.org.

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Filed under Economic Justice, food stamps, Pennsylvania, Welfare, Working poor

Slow & Uneven Progress: The Pregnancy Discrimination Act at 35

By Amal Bass, WLP Staff Attorney

Thirty-five years ago today, President Carter signed into law the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law superseded the U.S. Supreme Court’s misguided decisions in Geduldig v. Aiello and General Electric Co. v. Gilbert, both of which held that pregnancy discrimination was not a form of sex discrimination.

The PDA prohibits employers from firing, demoting, refusing to hire, or otherwise discriminating against a woman because of her pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. It states that employers must treat women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions “the same for all employment-related purposes … as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.” The intention was to bring Title VII closer to meeting its goal, which Justice Brennan noted in his Gilbert dissent, as being to

 “assur[e] equality of employment opportunities and [] eliminate those discriminatory practices and devices which have fostered [sexually] stratified job environments to the disadvantage of [women].” (quoting McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 800 (1973)).

Undoubtedly, the PDA has improved the workplace for women. The number of women working outside of the home has clearly increased since its passage. Nevertheless, over the last 35 years, far too many women have fallen through the cracks that our courts have chiseled into the law. For example, courts have required women to prove that employers provided better treatment to employees who were not only “similar in their ability or inability to work,” as the statutory language requires, but who were also afflicted with limitations arising from off-the-job conditions, which the language of the statute does not require. Courts have also refused to count  discrimination related to breast feeding and parental leave as pregnancy discrimination despite the PDA’s clear language that “‘because of sex’ or ‘on the basis of sex’ include… because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” These shortcomings exist not only in the PDA, but also in the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance, both of which are anti-discrimination laws modeled after Title VII and the PDA.

With regard to workplace accommodations, the 2008 amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act may fill some of these gaps; however, it remains to be seen how the courts known for limiting the effect of the PDA will apply the new protections. The amendment to the ADA requires an employer to provide an employee whose condition meets the law’s expanded definition of “disability” — including temporary impairments and less severe impairments — with a reasonable accommodation that does not present an undue hardship to the employer. Pregnancy is not a disability, but a pregnancy-related impairment that substantially limits a major life activity is one. Often, the women who have called the Women’s Law Project for help are having healthy pregnancies and need only minor accommodations, such as a chair for sitting or permission to carry a bottle of water at work, and courts have not yet applied the law to cases like these.

Without laws that provide increased protections for pregnant women in the workplace, employers are likely to continue to deny requests for minor job modifications to accommodate pregnancy. As a result, these women may be forced to continue working under hazardous conditions, exhaust any leave that might have been available to them prior to giving birth, and/or leave their jobs. Unemployed, these women lose their income, any employer-provided health insurance and other benefits, and work experience. As a result, they are at risk for reduced income for the rest of their lives.

It is time for new legislation that will meet the goals of the PDA. On the federal level, Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) have introduced the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (S.942/H.R. 1975), which would require employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions unless the accommodation imposes an undue hardship on the employer. On the state level, Pennsylvania should follow the example of several other states, including California, Hawaii, and Maryland, and pass a similar bill that would provide pregnant workers with reasonable accommodations. In Philadelphia, Councilmembers Greenlee, Reynolds-Brown, and Bass have introduced legislation (Bill No. 130687) that would amend the Fair Practices Ordinance to prohibit employers from refusing

 “to provide reasonable accommodations to an employee for needs related to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition, provided (i) the employee requests such accommodations and (ii) such accommodations will not cause an undue hardship to the employer.”

Women should not lose their jobs — placing their families at risk of poverty — because their employers have denied their requests for reasonable job accommodations. The promise of the PDA cannot be fully realized until the law prevents this discrimination from happening.

References:

A Better Balance & the National Women’s Law Center, It Shouldn’t Be a Heavy Lift: Fair Treatment for Pregnant Workers

ADAAA, Pub. L. 110-325

ADAAA Regulations, 29 C.F.R. Part 1630.2(h) (2011)

Equal Rights Advocates, Expecting a Baby, Not a Lay-Off

Geduldig v. Aiello, 417 U.S. 48 (1974)

General Electric Co. v. Gilbert, 429 U.S. 125 (1976)

PDA, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e)(k) (2013)

 

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Filed under Congress, Economic Justice, economic security, Employment, Philadelphia City Council, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Discrimination Act, pregnant workers fairness

Pennsylvania is Failing Women

By Kate Michelman and Sue Frietsche

So much for Pennsylvania as the birthplace of freedom and democracy. A report last month from the Center for American Progress offered some alarming statistics about the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the way   it treats the six million or so women who live here, assigning us a “C-” grade, and ranking our state 28th of the 50 states on women’s rights.

In fact, a quote from the report reads, “Pennsylvania stands out as one of the states that is among the worst in the nation for women. Across 36 factors of economic security, leadership, and health, Pennsylvania ranks 28th in the nation for how women are faring. This illustrates the long path ahead before women in Pennsylvania can get a fair shot at achieving economic security, reaching success, and living a healthy life.”

It goes from bad to worse in the report, whether it’s the fact that we scored a “D+” on economic factors for women (e.g., the 76 cents we still make to every dollar a man makes or the fact that 15% of us live in poverty), a “D” in leadership (our entire Congressional delegation contains one lone woman, and we hold less than 37% of the managerial positions in the state despite being 52% of the population), or a “C” in health (there is only one OB/GYN for approximately every 20,000 women in the state, we have the 12th highest infant mortality rate in the country, and our lawmakers are making it as difficult as possible for women to get reproductive health care).

It is beyond dispute that when the women of Pennsylvania do well, their families do well, their children thrive and communities prosper. That is reason enough for Pennsylvania to start climbing up from the bottom rungs of the 50 states.

But there is an even better reason, and simply put, it’s that Pennsylvania women deserve an equal shot at a good life. They deserve a state where they are treated equally at home, at work, and at school. They deserve a seat in the boardroom and at the table of government. They deserve a chance to live and work safely, with dignity – even when they’re pregnant or raising a family. They deserve the basic economic security essential to getting and staying healthy. They deserve the freedom to decide whether or not to have children in accordance with their beliefs, not under the boot of other people’s politics or religion.

So what can you do? Read the report, get motivated and do something about it. Get involved by getting smart about who you’re electing (or not electing) into office. Become an educated, vocal participant in exercising your civic duty, whether it’s visiting your legislators, writing letters to the editor, helping out at the polls – whatever inspires your civic passion. Above all, make your voice heard by voting, because Pennsylvania badly needs you in order to get back on the right track for our state’s women.

We’ve made great strides in the last 50 years, but a report like this shows we have miles to go. The women and men of Pennsylvania need to unite to effect real change for women, whether it is access to healthcare, economic security, or freedom from violence. And we need to pick up the pace while we’re at it. It’s simply taking too long to reach a place of true equality.

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Kate Michelman is co-chair of WomenVote PA, an organization that educates, engages, and mobilizes Pennsylvanians to make equality a reality for women. She is also president emerita of NARAL Pro-Choice America and author of “With Liberty and Justice for All: A Life Spent Protecting the Right to Choose.”

Sue Frietsche is a senior staff attorney in the Western Pennsylvania office of the Women’s Law Project.

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Filed under Domestic violence, Economic Justice, economic security, Family Violence, Health Care, Pennsylvania, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights, Violence Against Women, Voter turnout, women voting, Women's health, Women's Law Project, women's rights, WomenVote PA, working mothers, working women

The Wage Gap Starts in Childhood

Aly Mance, WLP Intern

Parents do their best to be good role models for their children; and for generations, they have given their children chores to do in exchange for an allowance in order to teach them responsibility and work ethic.  Sadly though, at a very young age, their children are also learning firsthand about the gender wage gap.  According to a recent article in Salon, parents are inadvertently teaching their daughters that their work is worth less than that of their sons.

A 2006 study conducted by University of Michigan economists found that girls spent two more hours per week doing chores than boys in a study of 3,000 kids.  Boys are enjoying more leisure time than their sisters, an imbalance that continues into adulthood.  According to the Organization of Economic Co-Operation and Development, men “report spending more time in activities counted as leisure than women.”

Not only are boys spending less time weekly on chores than girls, they are also making more money when they do them.  Boys’ chores appear to be more profitable, and parents deem the work done by boys to be more valuable than the chores done by girls —demonstrated by the fact that boys make more money per week than girls while working 2 hours less per week.  Boys tend to be assigned jobs like mowing the lawn, taking the trash out, or shoveling snow from the driveway; whereas girls tend to do indoor chores such as washing the dishes, cleaning bedrooms, or doing the laundry.  Parents find the work that boys do outside of the home more important and valuable than the traditionally “feminine” chores that girls do within the home.

These ideas and attitudes are perpetuated into adulthood.  A study conducted by Andrew Healy and Neil Mahorta shows that men who grow up with sisters do less housework than their wives.  This suggests that the gender separated chore environment from their childhood permanently altered their conception of gender roles.  It continues to reinforce the centuries-old idea that women battle every day in the working world: women belong in the home.  By telling children that girls do the dishes while boys take out the trash and that girls sweep the floors while boys shovel the driveways, parents make it clear that girls belong in the home, while boys belong outside of it.  A woman can’t “do a man’s job,” and she will always be paid and valued less for doing the same or more work.  They make it clear to their children that a woman’s work will always carry less worth than a man’s.

So here’s what parents should be doing: equally divide up the chores and equally pay each child. The same way that chores can reinforce traditional gender roles, sexism, and society’s acceptance of the wage gap, they can be used to develop egalitarian attitudes towards gender.  Ask your daughters to mow the lawn and your sons to fold the towels.  It could help reshape society and end the idea of traditional gender roles that support the wage gap.

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Filed under Economic Justice, Equal pay, Gender Discrimination, Girls, Sexism, Wage Gap

Shout Out: “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds”

By Kaitlin Leskovac, WLP Summer Intern

Last Friday, a group of congresswomen gathered on the steps of the Capitol to announce a new economic agenda titled “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds.” The agenda addresses three areas of continued inequality and obstacles for women in the workforce: equal pay, work and family balance, and childcare.

Equal Pay: Women still make only 77 cents for every dollar that men earn. This past April 9 was deemed Equal Pay Day, a date that marks how far into 2013 women had to work to earn what men earned in 2012. We cannot stand for this date to continue to be some sort of anniversary. To address the persistent wage gap between male and female workers, our congresswomen and congressmen proffer seven solutions. The agenda calls for an increase in minimum wage; investment in job training and education opportunities for women; support for women entrepreneurs and small business owners; and adequate tools to investigate wage discrimination. In addition, the agenda calls for the protection and restoration of employment rights, including those associated with paycheck fairness and pregnant workers fairness. This agenda furthers the call to action initiated by the Equal Pay Today! Campaign, launched June 10, 2013 by fifteen national and state-based women’s rights legal organizations, including the Women’s Law Project, on the 50th Anniversary of the Equal Pay Act of 1963.

To read more about the agenda for equal pay, click here.

To read more about the Equal Pay Today! Campaign, click here.

Work & Family Balance: The U.S. currently has no policy to ensure paid sick days and has no mandatory paid family leave policy. Current policy does not suit the structure of women’s lives, which in most cases involve the majority of childrearing, caretaking and household responsibilities. The new economic agenda calls for the address of current policy deficiencies, including provisions for paid sick leave; paid family and medical leave; and paid parental leave for federal employees. Ensuring work and family balance for working women is an economic imperative, given that women are now the breadwinners in 40% of households with children under age 18.

To read more about the agenda for work/family balance, click here.

Childcare: In the U.S., there is a drastic lack of high quality and affordable childcare. It is incredible that the U.S. currently ranks 28th out of 38 countries in the share of four year-olds enrolled in preschool. This is unacceptable considering high quality child care and early learning programs are imperative if the U.S. is to maintain educational benchmarks comparable to other developed nations. Adequate funding of childcare programs, improved training and pay for childcare workers, and expansion of the 2009 Child Care Tax Credit are just some of the actions called for in the When Women Succeed, America Succeeds agenda. President Obama’s Preschool for All and Early Learning initiatives, announced earlier this year, will also be crucial for efforts to raise the standard for childcare in the U.S. Women’s gains in the workplace and the promise of additional gains in the future must be supported by a commitment to providing accessible and high quality childcare.

To read about the agenda for childcare in full, click here.

Unfortunately, many predict that the agenda is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled House. However, we can no longer afford to neglect the economic rights of women. Women have a right to equal pay for equal work, plain and simple. Furthermore, the persistent institutionalized sexism in many work environments is based in part on gender role stereotypes that label women as caregivers. As a result of policy loopholes and inadequacies, talented women are deprived opportunities to participate in the workplace on equal footing with men. When Women Succeed, America Succeeds is a productive step in outlining the connections between women’s economic status and the greater well-being of our children and the nation as a whole. Our state and national representatives must value women’s vital social and economic contributions and support policy that furthers gender equality.

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Filed under Congress, Economic Justice, Equal pay, Wage Gap, working mothers, working women

How Long Will Equal Pay Take to Achieve?

By Terry L. Fromson, WLP Managing Attorney and
Kate Michelman, President Emeritus of NARAL Pro-Choice America and Co-Chair of WomenVote Pa, an initiative of the WLP

The Equal Pay Act became law fifty years ago today.  Unfortunately, we remain far from achieving the goal of the law.  Nationwide, women are paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to men, a 23 cent gap which adds up to over $10,000 per year.

These pay disparities have real-life negative consequences for women and their families.  Just last week, the Pew Research Center reported that women are the sole or primary source of income in 40 percent of American households with children under age 18.

The wage gap varies by state and city.  Pennsylvania’s gender wage gap mirrors the national average at 77 cents paid to women for every dollar paid to men, putting the Commonwealth in the bottom half of all states in terms of pay equity. Within Pennsylvania, the gap varies by municipality; in Pittsburgh women are paid 73 cents to the dollar paid to men, while women in Philadelphia are paid 80 cents to the dollar paid to a man.

Minority women suffer a greater disparity.  Nationally, African American women are paid 70 cents to the dollar paid to men.  Hispanic women are paid only 60 cents for every dollar paid to men.  The wage gap in Pennsylvania for African American women is 72 cents to the dollar paid to men.  Hispanic women in Pennsylvania fare worse, as they are paid only 58 cents to the dollar paid to men.

Comparing the pay of Pennsylvania women to just white non-Hispanic men highlights the combined effect of race/ethnicity and sex on pay.  In Pennsylvania, white non-Hispanic women are paid 75.2 cents, African American women are paid 68.1 cents, and Hispanic women are paid 55.5 cents relative to the dollar paid to white non-Hispanic men.

At the same time, women in Pennsylvania are more likely to be poor than men, and female-headed families are three times more likely to live in poverty. For these families, the gap between what employers pay them and what employers should pay them may make the difference between feeding their families healthy meals, keeping a roof over their heads, and having transportation to work.  The wage gap increases economic insecurity for Pennsylvania families.

While the wage gap fluctuates based on occupation and education, women are paid less than men in almost every occupation despite almost identical qualifications. Women are paid less even though they are earning the largest portion of college diplomas.  At the rate that this gap is changing, the wage gap will not be closed for over forty years, almost 100 years after the adoption of the Equal Pay Act.

The underlying cause of the wage gap is sex discrimination ¾ plain and simple.  Employers pay women less than men.  Employers offer them fewer jobs and fewer promotions and pay them less for the same work.  This ongoing sex discrimination is aggravated by a number of additional factors.  Gender segregation persists in the workforce, with sex stereotypes driving women into low-wage, often part-time jobs, predominantly occupied by women.  In these often minimum wage jobs, women are subjected to wage theft, when they are shorted hours, forced to work off the clock, not paid overtime, or not paid at all.  Overlaying this picture is the further diminishment of wages due to assumptions about pregnancy and caregiving responsibilities at the time of hire and the lost time from work and the work force due to family responsibilities disproportionately borne by women when employers fail to provide men and women with accommodations and flexibility to address their families’ needs.

We need to bring America closer to the promise of the Equal Pay Act.  The Paycheck Fairness Act, currently pending in Congress, seeks to eliminate gaps in the Equal Pay Act that make it difficult for women to get the information they need in order to know whether they are being subject to discrimination.  Today, a majority of employees report that they are either prohibited or actively discouraged from discussing their pay.  States are getting on board.  Governor Cuomo has announced plans to advance a Women’s Equality Act in New York that includes equal pay.  Legislation has been introduced in some states to provide greater protection for equal pay than is currently provided under federal law.  Pennsylvania should do the same.

In a perfect world, employers would pay women what they deserve without government intervention.  Such action would be an appropriate salute to the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act.   Sadly, we have learned this is unlikely.  As voters, women have shown themselves to be savvy, educated citizens who will vote for their interests.  Politicians who refuse to make this noble idea a reality do not deserve our votes.

Join our Equal Pay Today! Campaign now.

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Filed under Allegheny County, Economic Justice, Employment, Equal pay, Equality, Gender Discrimination, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Sex Discrimination, Wage Gap, Women's Law Project

Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence Need Paid Leave

Carol E. Tracy, Executive Director, WLP

Victims of domestic and sexual violence need paid sick leavePromoting Healthy Families and Workplaces would require employers with six or more employees to provide up to seven paid days of leave for employees to use when they are sick, receive preventive care, address needs related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, or take care of a family members.  This important legislation provides domestic and sexual violence victims the opportunity to take steps to protect themselves from further domestic violence without risking loss of employment.

The Women’s Law Project stands firmly in support of this legislation.  We have made great progress with the Nutter administration to improve the response of law enforcement to domestic and sexual  violence as well as to expand social and health services.  This bill is a significant component of what needs to be a multifaceted response to a complex problem.  With the enactment of this bill, Philadelphia will take the lead in helping Pennsylvania victims of abuse achieve economic and personal independence.

We know firsthand how important adoption of this bill is to victims of abuse.  Through both our telephone counseling service and policy initiatives, we hear from women who are unable to obtain protection orders or seek the assistance of other social services to help them address the abuse to which they are subjected because their jobs do not give them time off for such activities.  Unable to risk losing their ability to support their families, these individuals continue to live in fear and suffer abuse without legal protection or other support.  Those who take time off from work to address the domestic violence even though they lack leave time, risk loss of employment, destitution, and homelessness.

Except for the domestic abuse hotline and emergency services in Philadelphia, the courts and most social services operate on a 9 to 5, Monday through Friday schedule.  While someone faced with imminent danger may call 911 or file a petition for an Emergency Protection From Abuse order at any time, anyone seeking a final order of protection or relief from the criminal justice system must ultimately appear in court during the work week, typically for many hours, and often on a repeated basis.  Women seeking such orders have told us they simply could not take more time off from work to return to court again.  If the plaintiff does not appear for a hearing, the court dismisses the petition and no relief is granted. This bill, if adopted, will enable victims of abuse to seek legal and other protection.

We anticipate that the business community may assert concerns about misuse or overuse of the leave provided by this legislation.  This concern has been raised in other venues in which we have worked to confront discrimination against and achieve accommodation for battered women: insurance discrimination and waivers of welfare work requirements.  We have seen no abuse in those arenas.  In conversations with state insurance departments around the country, we have been assured that the number of individuals seeking relief under statutes prohibiting insurance discrimination against battered individuals has been extremely low.  In our work in Pennsylvania on implementation of the Family Violence Option, which allows domestic violence victims to be excused from work requirements if domestic violence impedes their ability to comply, we have also seen no abuse.  Despite estimates that domestic violence victims make up 40-60% of the TANF population, the number of TANF recipients in Pennsylvania seeking to be excused from work requirements is very small, only approximately 2 % or less of the TANF adult population statewide.  Philadelphia’s numbers are even lower, with the percentage of the city’s welfare population seeking work waivers consistently below 1% (Department of Public Welfare, unpublished data April -August, 2007).  Just as fears of false allegations of domestic violence have not been realized in these situations, we do not anticipate false claims in this one.

The reasons are the same:  battered women want to work and need to work to support themselves and their families.  In addition, victims of domestic violence do not easily disclose domestic violence to anyone, let alone their employer: shame and fear of loss of benefits and employment are a strong deterrent to disclosure of domestic violence.  Because requesting domestic violence leave requires such a disclosure, we do not expect domestic violence victims to request leave unless it is absolutely necessary for them to be excused from work.

See more information at:  http://www.phillyearnedsickdays.com/

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Filed under Domestic violence, Earned Sick Leave, Economic Justice, Family Violence, Paid Leave, Philadelphia, Philadelphia City Council, Violence Against Women

Women’s Law Project Releases Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women

The Women’s Law Project (WLP) released today a major report, Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women, linking sex bias to adverse health outcomes in women.   The release of this report coincides with National Women’s Health Week (May 13-19th), during which time organizations around the country are raising awareness about the benefits of the health care law.

Inspired by the public debate on health care, WLP embarked on an examination of the relationship between the sex bias that women experience and their health, resulting in the publication of Through the Lens of Equality.  “As familiar as we were with ongoing bias and discrimination against women and with data on critical health measures for women, our in-depth examination of the linkage between the two truly shocked us,” said Carol Tracy, Executive Director of the Women’s Law Project.  “The focus is on Pennsylvania, however, the finding and recommendations have nationwide application,” she added.

“For all of the years that I have been involved in women’s rights and women’s health care, I have never seen the connections between health and equality more dramatically demonstrated that it is in this report,” said Kate Michelman, former President of NARAL Pro-Choice America and long-time Pennsylvania resident who served as a consultant to this project.

Through the Lens of Equality examines the health impact of sexual and intimate partner violence, caregiving responsibilities, poverty, and bias in the workplace, school, and health care.  The report delves into the politicization of women’s reproductive health care and shows how women are harmed by limited access to abortion, contraception, and maternity care.  It repeatedly points to the importance of implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) to expand access to better health care for women, while acknowledging the ACA’s serious gaps, including not mandating abortion coverage.

“This is not a publication about diseases, but instead an exposition of how biased environments in which women live, work, study, and receive health services are infected with outdated notions about women’s role in society which in turn have negative health consequences for them,” said Amal Bass, staff attorney at the Women’s Law Project.

The publication also provides a series of recommendations tailored to both overcoming sex bias and improving women’s health.  “Numerous targeted interventions well beyond improving access to insurance through the ACA — are necessary to cure institutional and individual prejudices about women,” said Terry Fromson, Managing Attorney of the WLP.  “Failure to do so will result in significant inequitable and avoidable health problems for women,” she added.

Through the Lens of Equality acknowledges the impressive strides that have been made in women’s rights over the past fifty years, but shows that past victories are not enough.  “Looking to the future requires insistence on equal treatment, equal access, and equal opportunity to achieve not just healthy women, but a healthy society,” said Susan Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney

The Women’s Law Project is a legal advocacy organization based in Pennsylvania.  Founded   in 1974, its mission is to create a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of all women throughout their lives.  The Law Project engages in high impact litigation, public policy advocacy and community education.   Through the Lens of Equality is available at http://www.womenslawproject.org/NewPages/wkTLE_Base.html.

 

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Filed under Domestic violence, Economic Justice, Education, Employment, Equality, Family Planning, Family Violence, Gender Discrimination, Health Care, Reproductive Rights, Sex Discrimination, Sexual Assault, Sexual harassment, Violence Against Women, Women's health

Gingrich Food Stamp Remarks Reflect Common, Harmful Misconceptions

The 2012 GOP primary race has produced a lot of controversial sound bites, but perhaps the most ubiquitous in the past two weeks came from former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, when he said that if the NAACP invited him, he would “go to their convention and talk about why the African American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”

The NAACP responded almost immediately, pointing out that, “The majority of people using food stamps are not African-American, and most people using food stamps have a job,” and that although Gingrich was invited several times to the NAACP’s annual convention while he was serving as Speaker of the House, he has never attended.

Weeks later, a sad but powerful piece by The Grio allowed food stamp recipients – many of whom did not receive, or need, nutrition assistance before the recession – to share their own reactions to these remarks.

“I pay taxes. I don’t steal anything from the government.” Said Linda Miles, an African-American woman who also happens to be a veteran with a Master’s degree. While looking for a permanent job, Miles has taken an unpaid internship and become certified to work in early childhood care, and adds, “I’m not one of these people who sit on their butt and just collect a check. I’ve got a resume three pages long.”

“I’d rather work than be on food stamps, but, I mean, my body says no.” Explained Russell Johnson, who worked in refrigeration before being injured. “If I sit for too long, my back starts hurting and my leg goes numb. If I stand too long, the same old thing. And if I walk too much, my legs give out like they ain’t even there.”

Josephine Gonzales, who was employed before her pregnancy but unable to find work after giving birth, described her food assistance as “A way to survive.”

“Instead of spending the little cash I have on food, I can spend it on diapers and other things for my baby,” she said. “It’s just a small help. It’s not making our lives luxurious.”

To those familiar with the realities of poverty and food insecurity in America, that a recipient would feel compelled to explain that food stamps don’t buy a life of luxury seems a bit strange – one would think it obvious that people who receive government assistance aren’t exactly “living large.” But with his remarks about food stamps – particularly food stamps and the African-American community – Gingrich is building on the foundation President Ronald Reagan laid when he invented the “welfare queen.”

The phrase “welfare queen” has decidedly ignoble origins. During his administration, President Reagan often illustrated the need for welfare reform by telling the story of a “Chicago welfare queen” who collected over $150,000 from the government using “eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards, and is collecting veteran’s benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she’s collecting Social Security on her cards. She’s got Medicaid, is getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names.” He continued to refer to this woman as a classic example of welfare abuse in America even after the press corrected him that the woman he was referring to was convicted in 1977 of using two names in order to collect $8,000.

Despite the welfare queen’s nonexistence, for decades she has been a powerful tool for stirring up middle-class resentment against government aid recipients.  Likewise, Newt Gingrich’s remarks about the value of the paycheck over the food stamp reinforce the idea that welfare recipients are accepting government aid in place of paid employment, when in reality it is most often used to supplement insufficient paychecks.

The widespread myth that people living in poverty are simply unmotivated and won’t work as long as they’re receiving government assistance, encourages Americans to support slashing safety net programs that, in actuality,  enable thousands of Americans with jobs to put food on the table for themselves and their families.

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Filed under 2012 Election, Economic Justice, Welfare, Working poor