WLP’s Terry L. Fromson Discusses Women and the Minimum Wage

Women’s Law Project Managing Attorney Terry L. Fromson recently met with Pennsylvania Senator Rob Teplitz to discuss the disproportionate impact of Pennsylvania’s low minimum wage on women workers.

“In Pennsylvania, the minimum wage workforce is three-quarters women,” says Terry L. Fromson, managing attorney of Women’s Law Project. “They are living on $7.25 an hour, the lowest possible minimum wage in the country. A mother in Pennsylvania with two women is living on poverty wages. Her take-home pay is less than the U.S. poverty threshold.”

Fromson met with Senator Teplitz as part of the “10 Days for $10.10” Campaign. Last year, Fromson testified about the importance of raising the minimum wage before the Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee.

In addition to being the majority of workers earning minimum wage, women are also nearly three-quarters of Pennsylvania’s tipped workers. Pennsylvania’s minimum tipped wage is $2.83 per hour, a rate unchanged since 1998. It’s little wonder that 18 percent of Pennsylvania’s female tipped workers live in poverty, more than double the rate for working women overall. Almost one-quarter of female servers and bartenders in Pennsylvania live in poverty.

There’s another reason to be concerned about low tipped minimum wage: women working for tips may be more vulnerable to sexual harassment. A recent study from Restaurant Opportunities Centers United found that female tipped workers in states with a $2.13 tipped minimum wage are more likely to experience sexual harassment than their counterparts in states where employers are required to pay the regular minimum wage before tips.

As founding members of the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health, the Women’s Law Project supports three minimum wage bills currently under consideration by the Pennsylvania Legislature: Senator Tartaglione’s SB 195 and SB 196, and Representative Patty Kim’s HB 250.

Click here to learn more about the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health, a statewide group of organizations advocating for evidence-based policy solutions to real problems faced by Pennsylvania women.

A rally advocating for Pennsylvania to raise the minimum wage will be held on the front steps of the Capitol in Harrisburg this Thursday, July 2, at 11AM. Find out more about the rally here.

Stay up to date on this topic and other policy related to the status of women and girls in Pennsylvania by following us on twitter and tumblr and liking us on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

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Marriage Equality

“All Americans are entitled to protection under the law

regardless of who they are or who they love.”

– President Obama, June 26, 2015

 

This morning’s Supreme Court ruling declaring same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional marks a victory for love. I can hear the chants outside my window, see it on the faces of my co-workers and feel it in my bones.

When Pennsylvania became the 19th state where same-sex couples could legally marry last year, the federal judge that overturned our state ban wrote that “we are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.”

Today we are all better people. We have achieved marriage equality in the United States.

“The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change. Changes, such as the decline of arranged marriages and the aban­donment of the law of coverture, have worked deep transformations in the structure of marriage, affecting aspects of marriage once viewed as essential. These new insights have strengthened, not weakened, the institution. Changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations.”

– Justice Anthony Kennedy in the majority opinion

Today is also a victory for advocates who have been fighting for marriage equality and the rights of LGBTQ community.

Women’s Law Project is proud to have filed an amici curiae (“friends of the court”) brief in support of marriage equality for all. We signed the brief as a member of The Alliance: State Advocates for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, an alliance of state-based women’s equality and gender justice legal organizations.

From the brief:

“The Alliance organizations’ commitment to LGBT rights initiatives over the last forty years is consistent with their understanding of the true nature of gender inequality. They believe that all forms of gender discrimination are linked, and that sexual-orientation discrimination must be analyzed as a facet of sex discrimination. Bans on marriage of same-sex couples are state-backed legal regimes that are based on and reinforce gender stereotypes that harm everyone, including LGBT people and heterosexual and nontransgender women and men oppressed by the imposition of those stereotypes. Such bans cannot stand.”

We were right: Such bans cannot stand.

Thank you for your ongoing support as we continue to fight for the rights of women and girls, and equality. We are thrilled to share this tremendous victory for the LGBTQ community in Pennsylvania and across the country with you.

-Tara Murtha, WLP Staff

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Report: Wage Theft is Rampant in Pennsylvania

By the end of this week, 400,000 Pennsylvanians will have been illegally deprived of between $19 million and $32 million due to wage theft. That’s a lot of money that could have been spent on rent and groceries, and not to mention, taxes.

Wage theft is the illegal refusal to pay, or the underpayment, of wages due. It is rampant across a broad range of industries, and often happens in hidden or incremental ways that add up to big numbers. Sometimes wage theft occurs when employers refuse to pay overtime hours. It can mean asking employees to do work before or after they clock in for the day.

Sometimes wage theft is hidden in paperwork, such as purposefully misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor when they should be a full-time employee, undercounting worked hours, or taking  illegal deductions from a worker’s paycheck.

A new report out from the Social Justice Lawyering Clinic at the Stephen and Sandra Sheller Center for Social Justice at Temple University Beasley School of Law reveals just how pervasive wage theft is across Pennsylvania.

According to the report:

9 percent of workers are misclassified as independent contractors.

40% of those same workers report being asked to work off the clock without pay

Only 47% of Pennsylvania’s day care industry was in compliance with the federal wage and hour laws

On average, families lose 15% of their would-be paycheck to wage theft

Apparently it’s easy to steal from people in an industry like restaurant work, where 61 percent of Philadelphia’s workers surveyed didn’t know the state’s current minimum wage.

 

What can be done to stop wage theft in Pennsylvania?

Researchers provide several recommendations for stopping wage theft. The first one is to increase financial penalties on employers guilty of illegal wage theft.

From the report:

Employers have an economic incentive to commit wage theft because Pennsylvania law provides very little punishment for employers. Under the Wage Payment and Collection Law (WPCL), workers can potentially collect liquidated damages of $500 or 25 % of wages owed.

Pennsylvania’s Minimum Wage Act (MWA) does not provide for any damages to the worker.

By comparison, under federal law, workers can recover damages equal to their unpaid wages, and under the laws of other states, workers can recover double or triple the amount of their unpaid wages.”

In Pennsylvania, a bill currently under consideration would increase the penalties for wage theft. HB 250, sponsored by Rep. Patty Kim with bipartisan co-sponsorship of more than 60 state representatives, would raise the penalty for both wage theft and for retaliating against an employee for reporting said theft.

It has been sitting in the Labor & Industry Committee since February.

HB 250 is a part of the Agenda for Women’s Health, a legislative package of evidence-based bills designed to protect the health and economic security of women in Pennsylvania.

Click here to learn more about HB 250 and other Agenda bills.

Stay up to date on this topic and other policy related to the status of women and girls in Pennsylvania by following us on twitter and tumblr and liking us on Facebook.

 

-Tara Murtha, WLP Staff

 

 

 

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Today is the 43rd anniversary of Title IX!

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” – Title IX

Title IX is a comprehensive federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. The principal objective of Title IX, established in 1972, is to avoid the use of federal money to support sex discrimination in education programs, and to provide people effective protection against those practices.

The law has often been leveraged to protect and promote gender equality in schools’ athletic opportunities. Title IX requires schools and colleges that receive federal funds to give women and girls an equal chance to play sports, and to treat men and women equally when it comes to athletic scholarships and other benefits like equipment, coaching and facilities.

Under Title IX, the number of male college athletes increased from 170,384 in 1972 to 228,106 in 2005-06. Meanwhile, the number of female college athletes has quintupled, from 31,852 to 170,526 over the same period.

In other words, it is a success.

But there’s still plenty of work to do toward achieving equality in athletic opportunities, and resources for women’s athletic programs continue to lag compared to men. According to the National Women’s Law Center, though women are 53% of the student body at Division I colleges, they are only 44% of the athletes, receive only 32% of recruiting dollars and 37% of the overall amounts that colleges spend to support their teams.

A recent report published by the Women’s Sports Foundation outlined the many benefits of participating in sports—and the negative health consequences disproportionately suffered by poor women, women of color and women with disabilities as a result of having less access to sports programs.

 

Gender Equity in Sports in PA

In 2012, Pennsylvania passed the Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act, a law requiring that Pennsylvania public high schools, middle schools, and junior highs annually report data on gender equity in athletic opportunities.

The first year’s report revealed gender disparities that underscore how important it is that Pennsylvania schools are required to submit this data, so that students, parents, coaches and the community at large can identify possible discrimination and ensure equality. (We recently told you about a bill that could have been used as a backdoor repeal of the Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act. After you took action, the bill has been fixed to ensure that it does not threaten this reporting requirement.)

Data from the 2013-2014 school year should have been posted by the Pennsylvania Department of Education last fall, but has not been posted yet.

In recent years, Title IX has been leveraged to try to ensure that schools provide equal educational opportunities for girls and women by addressing sexual violence in campus. Under the requirements of Title IX schools receiving federal funds have a legal obligation to protect students from gender-based violence and harassment – including sexual assault.

Right now, we are participating in a twitter chat about the TitleIX on the occasion of the 43rd anniversary of this landmark law. Follow along at #TitleIXat43.

To call on the Pennsylvania Department of Education to post gender equity in school athletics from the 2013-14 school year, please post the following tweet:

In honor of #TitleIXat43, we are asking @PADeptofEd to post gender equity data from 2013-14 school year

 

-Tara Murtha, WLP Staff

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HB 1112 Amended: Victory for Female Athletes in PA!

We recently warned you about House Bill 1112, and asked you to take action on behalf of female athletes in Pennsylvania. We’re happy to report that your voices were heard, and the problem has been resolved.

The bill’s stated purpose is to identify unnecessary, burdensome or redundant regulations governing data collection in schools, and then eliminate them. While that sounds reasonable, we noticed that the bill could have been used as a backdoor repeal of a very good law called the Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act.

This act, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2012, created a good gender-equity law. It requires public secondary schools (grades 7-12) to report basic information about their school-sponsored athletic programs once a year. Such reporting is necessary because, in short, Pennsylvania shortchanges female athletes.

A random review of a few of the first year’s reports shows that school districts are failing to provide female students with athletic opportunities in proportion to the percentage of female students enrolled.

Gender gaps as big as 34% suggest that girls are losing out on the chance to play sports.

Equal opportunities to play sports is not just about recreation and fitness. Research shows people who play on high school sports teams tend to get better jobs and earn higher salaries—benefits that reverberate throughout life. “In other words, there are clear and robust individual and societal benefits that appear to be generated through the current system of school support for participation in competitive youth athletics.”

Rep. Rosemary M. Brown, prime sponsor of the bill, amended the legislation so it does not apply to data reporting required by laws or regulations, leaving the Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act in effect and untouchable by the legislation.

We’d like to thank you for speaking up on behalf of Pennsylvania’s female athletes, and thank Rep. Brown for listening to our concerns.

Together, we can make real change in Pennsylvania.

-Tara Murtha, WLP Staff

 

 

 

 

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Bad Bill Alert: HB 1112 Threatens Athletic Opportunities for Girls

Please urge your Pennsylvania lawmakers in the House Education Committee to vote against HB 1112, legislation that would suspend education data collection laws, including those related to athletics.

This bill is scheduled for a vote in the Education Committee on Monday, June 15, 2015.

The problem: HB 1112 could result in a backdoor repeal of the Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act. This act, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2012, created a good gender-equity law. It requires public secondary schools (grades 7-12) to report basic information about their school-sponsored athletic programs once a year.

True, HB 1112 specifies that the Department of Education would only suspend data collection laws it finds unnecessary, burdensome or redundant. The Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act is not unnecessary, burdensome or redundant, but that doesn’t mean the DOE won’t assert otherwise, and repeal it if HB 1112 is passed into law.

The Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act is still necessary. 

Pennsylvania schools are shortchanging girls. A random review of a few of the first year’s reports shows that school districts are failing to provide female students with athletic opportunities in proportion to the percentage of female students enrolled. Gender gaps as big as 18.72% suggest that girls are losing out on the chance to play sports.

The Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act is not burdensome. 

The data on athletic opportunities, such as the number of students on athletic teams and what year teams were added or eliminated, is readily available to schools. It should take only between two and six hours to fill out Pennsylvania’s reporting form. In Kentucky and Georgia, where gender equity disclosure laws have been on the books for more than a decade, school administrators take between two and six hours to complete very similar reports.

The Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act is not redundant. 

Without this law, it is difficult to find gender equity data. This law puts all of the information related to athletic opportunities for girls in one place, enabling parents, students, coaches, and others in the community find out whether their public schools are providing female athletes with the equitable opportunities and treatment they deserve, as required by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Without this law, it would be much more difficult for a community to discover if their school’s athletic program is discriminating against girls.

Repealing the Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act would also increase the burden on schools, which would have to respond to possible multiple “Right to Know” requests from parents, students or community members — responses to which are due within a few days — instead of reporting the data once a year.

Requiring schools to collect and report athletic data on a yearly basis is about transparency and fairness to young women in a state with a record of discriminating against female athletes.

Without equitable access to athletic opportunities, girls lose out on the many benefits associated with team sports, ranging from friendships and fun to substantial health gains, the development of leadership skills, and access to college scholarships.

Click here to urge your legislator to vote NO on HB 1112 and stand up for the young women of Pennsylvania.

 

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You Are Being Heard: Vote on HB222 Postponed

Last week, we sent you an alert to inform you about a bill that would, if passed, punish women in recovery from drug addiction by withholding food from their families.

In short, House Bill 222 would impose a lifetime ban on benefits for people convicted of felony drug crimes. The ban is not just immoral, it’s ineffective as a deterrent. Prosecutors say refusing to give people in recovery the support to get back on their feet—and in many cases, the ability to support their children while doing so–only increases the likelihood of criminal behavior.

HB 222 also disproportionately affects women.

We asked you to take action, and many of you did by calling, emailing and sending a message to your representative and Governor Tom Wolf through our system.*

House Bill 222 was scheduled for a vote in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives today. But, thanks to your messages and the work of advocates like you, the bill was taken off the fast track, and removed from the schedule.

But the future is unclear.

We remain very concerned about the possibility of this bad bill coming back for a vote. We encourage you to continue calling and emailing to urge your representatives to oppose HB 222.

We simply should not be punishing women who are attempting to rebuild their lives and re-enter their communities—and in many cases, support their children.

Thank you for your support. Your voices are making a difference.

We’ll keep you posted.

 

*We heard from a few people that they received an odd notice regarding their message not making it to Governor Wolf. Not everyone had this problem. To those of you who did, thank you for letting us know. We’re currently troubleshooting the issue.

-Tara Murtha, WLP Staff

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