Video: WLP Explains Your Rights Regarding Sexual Harassment in Pennsylvania

Women’s Law Project Executive Director Carol Tracy recently appeared on “At Issue,” a news program that airs Sundays on NBC10 in the Philadelphia market.

Tracy discussed the Weinstein story, the culture shift happening in the United States regarding sexual abuse, and legal protections available for people who face sexual harassment in the workplace.

Some excerpts:

NBC10: Tell us your reaction to all of this, when you first heard about the Weinstein scandal?

It’s not the first scandal of this type we’ve heard, but what we’re seeing … in the last 5 or 6 years, from campus activism to Cosby to Weinstein, is that women are simply saying we’re done with it, we’ve have enough of it, and we’re not going to put up with it. That’s pretty remarkable I think … We’re seeing a cultural shift that is quite dramatic.

NBC10: You bring up the legal aspects of it. What are the laws in our area that protect people from sexual harassment?

If one is in the workplace, laws throughout the United States, Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts protects employees in situations where there are at least 15 employees. In Pennsylvania, we have the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, which protects employees where there are four or more employees, and in Philadelphia there just has to be one employee. So there are different remedies that are available under all these laws.

NBC10: If there are four or fewer [employees] what happen then?

If they don’t live in Philadelphia, they [may] have limited recourse. There are a number of jurisdictions in Pennsylvania and surrounding states that [have changed and are] changing their laws as they did in Philadelphia. [Essentially, it’s a patchwork of protections across the state.]

It’s also important to remember that some of the behavior that is called sexual harassment is also criminal behavior. Sexual assault, unwanted touching, up to penetration, up to rape, it can be a criminal violation as well as a civil violation.

NBC10:  There are resources available to those who feel they may be a victim. Talk about some of those.

There’s the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), where one can file a complaint on one’s own. Same with the Human Relations Commission in Philadelphia, and the state Human Relations Commission, and of course people can secure their own legal representation.

We at the Women’s Law Project can help guide people if they need information by calling our telephone counseling service at 215-928-9801, and we can help direct people to the appropriate resources.

NBC10: Do cases like the Weinstein case, and other allegations against prominent figures like Bill Cosby, does it make women more likely to break their silence and come forward? Because shame is a key component in this.

We’ve lived in a culture that has blamed women. We’ve lived in a culture that certainly looked at rape as the fault of the victim.

… I might add that the sexual harassment laws also apply to all genders and gender identity, so if [the harassment] is based on sex—if [the victim is] a gay man, or a transgender person—under our laws in Pennsylvania they are protected. There are also cases, albeit they are rare, that women harass men based on their sex, connected to some event that is sexual in nature.

The behavior can range. It can be an environment that has become hostile because there’s constant dirty jokes, constant pornography, issues like that. So there’s a continuum [starting] on that end, at the other end of the continuum, there’s rape. The remedies available to people also go along those continuums.

So if a person in a workplace and she feels pornographic pictures and constant joking is offensive, she files a complaint with her employer, the employer may reprimand the people who were doing this and say, ‘Stop it, stop it now, and if you don’t stop it, you’re going to get fired,” and give them warnings, and if they don’t stop it, then they fire them.

But certainly an environment that’s hostile per se, or “on its face,” is if sexual assault occurred. So those kinds of issues require great action on the part of the employer.

Watch the entire clip here.

The Women’s Law Project is a public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.

Sign up for WLP’s Action Alerts here. Stay up to date on issues and policy by subscribing to our blog, following us on twitter and liking us on Facebook

We are a non-profit organization. Please consider supporting equal rights for women and girls by making a one-time donation or scheduling a monthly contribution.

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Action Alert: Tell Your State Senator Not to Discriminate Against Trans Youth

We need you to let your state Senator know that you care about protecting transgender kids in Pennsylvania. This vote can happen as early as today.

Pennsylvania’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is scheduled to run out of funds the end of the year.

CHIP provides insurance coverage to uninsured children and teens up to age 19 whose families earn too much to qualify for Medical Assistance, but who cannot afford to purchase private insurance.

In Pennsylvania, more than 174,000 children are currently enrolled in CHIP.

Instead of simply renewing the funding, the Pennsylvania Senate is seizing this as an opportunity to discriminate against LGBTQ children by adding this language to House Bill 1388:

 (G) LIMITATION OF COVERAGE.–THE BENEFIT PACKAGE FOR ELIGIBLE CHILDREN MAY NOT INCLUDE REIMBURSEMENT FOR GENDER OR SEX REASSIGNMENT SURGERY OR GENDER OR SEX TRANSITION SERVICES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PHYSICIAN’S SERVICES, INPATIENT AND OUTPATIENT HOSPITAL SERVICES, PRESCRIBED DRUGS OR COUNSELING SERVICES RELATED TO SUCH SURGERY OR SERVICES.

Tell your state Senator NOT to discriminate against LGBTQ children in Pennsylvania by clicking through to this form from our friends at Equality Pennsylvania, or contacting your state Senator directly.

The Women’s Law Project is a public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.

Sign up for WLP’s Action Alerts here. Stay up to date on issues and policy by subscribing to our blog, following us on twitter and liking us on Facebook

We are a non-profit organization. Please consider supporting equal rights for women and girls by making a one-time donation or scheduling a monthly contribution.

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Why Is It So Hard to Get Abortion Right in the News?

Reproductive health is a multi-beat topic in the daily news cycle, and yet coverage of abortion so often falls short. Why?

WLP communications director Tara Murtha wrote a piece for The Poynter Institute examining a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Contraception that digs into this question. The Poynter Institute is a global leader in exploring journalism-related issues.

The study, “The stakes are so high”: interviews with progressive journalists reporting on abortion,” is a qualitative analysis of the challenges experienced by journalists when covering abortion-related stories.

Key findings:

  • The single most common shared experience of journalists who cover abortion and abortion-related topics is facing anti-choice harassment.
  • Reporting on abortion takes initiative. Journalists covering abortion often have to not only pitch their editors (disproportionately white men) rather than accept assignments, but they often have to also educate them about basic abortion facts.
  • Reporters covering abortion perceive increased pressure from their editors to engage in “both sides-ism,” an outdated framework rooted in the belief that juxtaposing two opposing statements next to each other, even if one statement is 100% false, somehow illuminates an issue for readers.*
  • Despite this increased pressure, two-thirds of the study participants relayed that they instead employ a “merit-based” framework, where they resist publishing false statements simply to satisfy an outdated, ineffective idea of “balance.”

To read the rest of the article including takeaways in how the study’s findings can can improve abortion coverage, and therefore expand readers’ understanding of the issues and what is at stake, click here.

*Ironically, the article is illustrated with a sign making a false medical claim promoted by anti-choice advocates and lawmakers championing 20-week abortion bans.

The Women’s Law Project is a public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.

Sign up for WLP’s Action Alerts here. Stay up to date on issues and policy by subscribing to our blog, following us on twitter and liking us on Facebook

We are a non-profit organization. Please consider supporting equal rights for women and girls by making a one-time donation or scheduling a monthly contribution.

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Pennsylvania Falls Further Behind While Workplace Protections for Pregnant and Nursing Women Take Effect in Connecticut and Nevada

Pregnant workers in Pennsylvania still lack adequate statewide workplace protections.

Starting this month, women in Connecticut and Nevada have stronger legal protections if they need reasonable workplace accommodations while they are pregnant or nursing.

These two states, like twenty-‍one others across the country, have each passed a law that explicitly grants pregnant and nursing women the right to pregnancy and lactation accommodations at work, and those laws went into effect on October 1.

Meanwhile, many pregnant and nursing women in Pennsylvania remain vulnerable, as similar bills languish in the state legislature.

The Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (HB 1583, sponsored by Rep. Sheryl Delozier, R-Cumberland) would explicitly grant Pennsylvania women the right to reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions, and the Workplace Accommodations for Nursing Mothers Act (HB 1685, sponsored by Rep. Mary Jo Daley, D-Montgomery) would provide more working women with the right to break time to express breast milk.  Both bills are currently sitting in the Pennsylvania House Committee on Labor and Industry.

They are among a package of bills supported by the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health, a group of more than fifty-five organizations calling for evidence-based policy solutions to real problems faced by Pennsylvania women and families.

As we wait on the Pennsylvania legislature to move these bills, Pennsylvania pregnant and nursing women can look to other federal, state, and local laws to protect their rights at work, such as the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance—but those laws don’t cover all Pennsylvania employees.

If you have questions about your rights at work, contact the Women’s Law Project at 215-928-9801 or info@womenslawproject.org for assistance.

The Women’s Law Project is a public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.

Sign up for WLP’s Action Alerts here. Stay up to date on issues and policy by subscribing to our blog, following us on twitter and liking us on Facebook

We are a non-profit organization. Please consider supporting equal rights for women and girls by making a one-time donation or scheduling a monthly contribution.

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WLP Statement on Pennsylvania Suing Donald Trump Over the New Contraception Rules

Philadelphia –  The Women’s Law Project applauds Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s announcement today that he is suing President Donald J. Trump and the Trump Administration for issuing new rules that allow virtually any company to deny women insurance coverage for contraception.

According to the lawsuit filed today in the United States District Court in Philadelphia, the rules issued by the Trump Administration on October 6 violate federal law, which requires insurance companies to cover preventive health care services, including contraception, with no co-pay. The administration’s illegal action and new rules mean that 2.5 million Pennsylvania women and their families could have to pay more for basic health care.

“They failed to repeal Obamacare, they failed to defund Planned Parenthood, so now they’re going after contraception,” says Carol E. Tracy, Executive Director of the Women’s Law Project. “The predictable results of this latest way to attack women is unconscionable. Access to contraception reduces maternal and infant mortality, and reducing that access will increase it. Claiming to be “pro-life” and supporting this is beyond hypocritical. It’s outrageous.”

According to the Attorney General of Pennsylvania, it’s illegal, too.

From the complaint:

“This lawsuit challenges the Defendants’ illegal and unjustified attempt to deny millions of women in Pennsylvania and across this country access to necessary preventive health care through their employer-sponsored insurance plans. As set forth more fully below, Defendants’ actions violate, among other provisions of law, the Administrative Procedure Act, the Affordable Care Act, the guarantee of equal protection enshrined in the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”

“[The Trump Administration] replaced science and evidence-based medical reasoning with political calculation,” says Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is filing a lawsuit in federal court to stop them.”

The Women’s Law Project is a public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.

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On Sexual Harassment in Hollywood, on Campuses, and in Pennsylvania

Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein

One of the biggest news stories right now reveal allegations of serial sexual harassment by Hollywood studio executive Harvey Weinstein. A wrenching New York Times story details decades of allegations following a pattern wherein Weinstein would allegedly invite younger actresses to work meetings in hotel rooms, then show up in a robe or inappropriately dressed, make sexual advances and even ask them to watch him shower.

We may be seeing the beginning of a Cosby effect take place, where more women are coming forward to share similar experiences now that the allegations, characterized as an “open secret” in Hollywood, have become public record.

One of the themes in the coverage is Weinstein’s support of liberal causes, and his apparent assumption that such support would somehow inoculate him from a scandal erupting around his own behavior.

A particularly troubling link between public displays of wokeness about the kind of rape culture that, in private, he allegedly perpetuated is Weinstein’s support of The Hunting Ground, a 2015 award-winning documentary produced by Amy Ziering and directed by Kirby Dick that explores sexual assault on college campuses and the ways many schools have failed to adequately address it.

WLP Executive Director Carol Tracy has a cameo on the film. Tracy’s work on improving institutional response to sexual assault began as a college student back in 1973, when she organized a sit-in on the University of Pennsylvania campus after female students were advised to dress conservatively in response to a gang rape on campus. Today, Tracy and WLP Managing Attorney Terry Fromson are recognized as experts in both reforming police response to sexual assault and Title IX, the landmark education equity law that prohibits federally funded education programs from discriminating on the basis of sex.

Vanity Fair just published an interview with Amy Ziering.

From the piece:

The irony of having what could have been one of the last Weinstein-orchestrated Academy Awards campaigns come from a film about a hidden-in-plain-sight sexual-assault crisis, was lost on no one. Reached Thursday, the film’s producer, Amy Ziering, said she and Dick had minimal contact with Weinstein during the release of the documentary. Still, she said they were not surprised by the charges. About a year after working with Weinstein, Ziering said, she spoke to women who offered her their own allegations against Weinstein.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Meanwhile, the problems explored in The Hunting Ground have become even more urgent now that the Trump administration has rolled back protections for victims of sexual assault and harassment in federally funded schools.

As we re-examine the dynamics and frequency of sexual harassment in the workplace, it’s worth noting: Here in Pennsylvania, most women working at companies with three or fewer employees are not protected under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, which prohibits sexual harassment (the exceptions are workers protected by a local ordinances better than state law).

There is no evidence that employees of smaller businesses are less likely than employees at larger corporations to experience harassment.

Legislation to extend equal protection to all Pennsylvania workers under the Human Relations Act (HB2300 of 2013-2014 session, HB846 of the 2015-2016 session) has been repeatedly introduced by members of the Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania legislature, and repeatedly ignored by the Pennsylvania legislature at large.

If you care about this issue, you should contact your Representative and ask them to support amending the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, so that all employees in the Commonwealth are covered, not just some.

The Women’s Law Project is a public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.

Sign up for WLP’s Action Alerts here. Stay up to date on issues and policy by subscribing to our blog, following us on twitter and liking us on Facebook

We are a non-profit organization. Please consider supporting equal rights for women and girls by making a one-time donation or scheduling a monthly contribution. 

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WLP Statement on Trump Administration’s Rollback of Contraception Mandate

The Trump Administration issued a new rule eviscerating the contraception coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

“We’re experiencing an unprecedented attack on contraception in this country, despite having full knowledge of all the public health benefits, and cost-savings, of ensuring contraception is widely available,” says Carol E. Tracy, Executive Director of the Women’s Law Project. “Contraception reduces unplanned pregnancies and abortion rates, and infant and maternal mortality rates. We’re dealing with a strategic effort to sabotage the health of women and children here.”

Contraception is standard medical care that has helped more than 99% of American women who have been sexually active to prevent pregnancy and treat medical conditions such as dysmenorrhea, menorrhagia (excessive menstrual bleeding), migraines, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids.

In April, Trump signed a bill allowing states to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood for preventative healthcare including contraception.

In May, Trump appointed Teresa Manning, a person who has publicly stated “contraception doesn’t work” in charge of overseeing Title X, the country’s family planning program.

In July, the House appropriations committee voted to eliminate $286 million for Title X, the already-underfunded federal program that funds contraception and related preventative healthcare services for low-income Americans.

In September, the Trump administration abruptly cut off funding for teen pregnancy prevention, amid repeated efforts to defund Planned Parenthood’s preventative healthcare program.

Then there is, of course, repeated efforts to gut and sabotage the Affordable Care Act.

This onslaught of attacks on contraception access arrive amid record-lows of both teen pregnancy and abortion rates.

“We are analyzing the interim rule and will be submitting a formal response,” says Terry L. Fromson, Managing Attorney of the Women’s Law Project. “But we’re also looking up long enough to see the big picture that emerges when you connect the dots between the Trump administration’s aggressive support of policies promoting unplanned pregnancy, rollback of protections for rape survivors, and obstruction of progress on workplace equality issues like equal pay. It’s a chilling picture.”

To request an interview with a WLP attorney about this topic, contact Tara Murtha at tmurtha@womenslawproject.org. 

The Women’s Law Project is a public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.

Sign up for WLP’s Action Alerts here. Stay up to date on issues and policy by subscribing to our blog, following us on twitter and liking us on Facebook

We are a non-profit organization. Please consider supporting equal rights for women and girls by making a one-time donation or scheduling a monthly contribution. 

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