WLP on the Radio Discussing Pregnant Workers’ Rights

On Wednesday, WLP staff attorney Tara Pfeifer talked with WITF Smart Talk’s Scott LaMar about the rights of pregnant workers.

The rights of pregnant workers is at a tipping point, especially since the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion in the landmark pregnancy discrimination case Peggy Young v. UPS back in March.

“What the decision means is an [affirmation] of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, an act passed way back in 1978, that was designed specifically to eradicate discrimination against pregnant workers,” Pfeifer told LaMar. “As that particular law has played out in court decisions over the last few decades, it’s not being consistently applied. Employers such as UPS in the Young case, had policies they identified as “pregnancy-blind,” but in reality, what it was doing was shutting out pregnant women exclusively for certain accommodations that other workers, as you identify, even ones that were convicted of DUI, were given routinely.”

The Young decision, Pfeifer explains, lands in the middle ground. It is a victory for pregnant workers, but also underscores the need for additional protections, and the need to clarify the requirements around providing temporary, reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers.

One helpful fix: Passing a state-level law requiring reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers.

Currently, the Pennsylvania Legislature is considering the Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PPWFA). Sponsored by Sen. Matt Smith (D-Washington/Allegheny), the PPWFA would require covered employers to make reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions unless it poses an undue hardship on the employer. It is part of a legislative package of bills to improve women’s health called the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health. There is also a forthcoming companion bill in the House, sponsored by Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland) and Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia).

Women are the primary breadwinners in 40 percent of modern families. No woman should have to worry that she could be forced off the job if she gets pregnant, and lose her paycheck and health care at the very moment her family needs her most.

So far, fourteen states and several cities have passed laws requiring some employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers—including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. That leaves an overwhelming number of Pennsylvania women with less protections, simply because of their zip code.

Listen to the full interview Smart Talk: What Rights do Pregnant Workers Have?

Posted in Parenthood, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health, Pregnancy, pregnancy discrimination, Pregnancy Discrimination Act, pregnant workers fairness | Leave a comment

Victory: Philadelphia’s Earned Paid Sick Days in Effect Today

Philadelphia’s earned paid sick leave ordinance goes into effect today. That means that if you work more than 40 hours per year in the city of Philadelphia, you qualify to earn paid or unpaid sick time to care for yourself or a family member. The law also makes sure that your boss can’t retaliate against you if you use your right to take a sick day.

This victory is a sterling example of what we can accomplish when we all work together. As Ellen Bravo of Family Values at Work wrote, “[Passing paid sick leave in Philadelphia had] everything to do with smart organizing, grit, and a transformed political landscape.”

In particular, we applaud the tireless advocacy of Marianne Bellesorte of PathwaysPA for her leadership on the issue.

When Women’s Law Project staff attorney Amal Bass testified for paid sick days in front of City Council, she specifically addressed the impact of the lack of earned paid sick leave on working women.

From our testimony:

At the WLP, a large portion of our work involves efforts to improve the health, safety, and economic security of women. We have seen how the absence of paid leave exacerbates the work-family imbalance that women bear disproportionately as the primary caregivers of their families.

A paid leave ordinance like the one we are discussing today would alleviate many of the burdens on these caregivers. It would protect the health of women and their families, address public health concerns, and promote efficiency and stability for the city’s businesses.

Women are disproportionately the primary caregivers in modern families and increasingly, the primary breadwinners, too. In a recent survey, 47 percent of women who stayed home to care for a sick child reported losing pay, a particularly difficult burden in tough economic times. Some workers lose their jobs. This new law will help all Philadelphians, and especially working mothers.

Meanwhile, as you may have heard, some lawmakers in the Pennsylvania Legislature have introduced a pre-emption bill with a retroactive amendment in an attempt to strip Philadelphia of this progress, and ensure no other Pennsylvanians earn paid sick time.

The bill, SB 333, is currently sitting in the Labor & Industry Committee of the Pennsylvania House. Governor Wolf has stated he would veto the bill if necessary. We will keep you posted.

To learn more about how paid sick time works, check out this flyer. The City of Philadelphia is responsible for regulating and enforcing this law, and will make final decisions on its interpretation. To contact the city, email paidsickleave@phila.gov. 



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WLP Announces the Campaign for Women’s Health

Women’s Law Project is proud to announce founding membership in the Campaign for Women’s Health, a new statewide coalition formed to change the conversation about women’s health care in Pennsylvania.

For years now in Harrisburg, the phrase ‘women’s health’ has been code for restricting access to safe and legal abortion for poor and working women. The result of substituting sound public health policy for buzzword politics is clear: Pennsylvania consistently ranks abysmally low for women’s health and economic security across all indicators.

Most recently, a national analysis conducted the Institute for Women’s Policy Research ranked Pennsylvania 31st for women’s health & well-being, 31st for reproductive rights, and 23rd for employment & earnings.

In the bigger picture, the United States ranks dead last in the developed world–50th–in maternal mortality–and Pennsylvania is in the bottom half of that dubious ranking. On average, pregnant women and newborns in Philadelphia fare worse than in the rest of the state and country. Maternal and infant mortality is severely stratified by race: African American women are three times as likely as white women to die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth.

While alarming, these statistics shouldn’t be surprising: Studies show the number of abortion restrictions is directly correlated with poor women’s health and higher risk of maternal death.

In other words, this is a preventable crisis—and can be turned around.

That’s why we’re proud to join with nearly two dozen other Pennsylvania organizations in the Campaign for Women’s Health. Our current focus is supporting the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health.

The Agenda is a legislative package of bills that proposes evidence-based policy solutions to real problems faced by women and families in Pennsylvania. The first and second waves were introduced last session; the Women’s Health Caucus announced the third wave of bills this afternoon at the Capitol.

Bills in the Agenda for Women’s Health are sponsored and introduced by members of the Women’s Health Caucus. The Caucus is a bipartisan, pro-choice group of lawmakers from both chambers of the Pennsylvania Legislature committed to taking pro-active steps to turn the status of women’s health and economic security around.

We applaud the Caucus for their continued commitment to common-sense policy solutions.

Some of the bills proposed within the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health include:


Reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers

The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was enacted 36 years ago. Yet, even today, pregnancy discrimination remains a persistent and growing problem. Some employers still force women to choose between a healthy pregnancy and employment by refusing to make temporary, minor accommodations, like allowing her to sit on a stool behind a register or carry a water bottle. The Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would require covered employers to make reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. (SB 40 – Sen. Smith, D-Washington/Allegheny; HB TBA; Rep. Delozier, R-Cumberland & Rep. Cohen, D-Philadelphia)


Sanitary conditions for nursing mothers

Study after study shows that both mothers and children benefit from breastfeeding. For most babies, breast milk helps fight against disease. For mothers, breastfeeding is linked to a lower risk of several health problems. Nursing women shouldn’t be sent to a janitor’s closet or bathroom to pump milk. The Workplace Accommodations for Nursing Mothers Act would help salaried women not covered by the Affordable Care Act and require their employers to provide break time and a private, sanitary space to express breast milk. (HB 1100 – Rep. Daley, D-Montgomery & Rep. D. Parker, R-Montgomery; SB TBA – Sen. McIlhinney, R-Bucks)


Equal Pay

More than 50 years after equal pay became the law of the land, even the most conservative data repeatedly confirm that women working fulltime, year-round jobs are paid less than their male counterparts, with women of color faring the worst. In recent years, progress toward equal pay has stalled. A recent report revealed that, at the current pace, women in Pennsylvania will not earn equal pay for equal work until 2072. The Equal Pay Act will help close the gender wage gap by prohibiting wage secrecy and closing loopholes so that employers cannot get away with paying men more by, among other things, blaming “market forces” or workers’ previous salaries. (HB TBA – Rep. Sims, D-Philadelphia & Rep. Davis, D-Bucks; SB 303; Sen. Teplitz, D-Dauphin/Perry & Sen. Williams, D-Delaware/Philadelphia)

For a full list of Agenda bills and more information about the Campaign for Women’s Health, go to www.pa4womenshealth.org.

We’re calling for an end to ideological politics trumping common-sense policy solutions in Pennsylvania.


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INVITATION to “Living in the Crosshairs” Book Release Party

You are invited to celebrate the release of the new book:

 Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism

by David S. Cohen and Krysten Connon


Thursday, May 7

6pm – 8pm

Philadelphia Women’s Center

777 Appletree Street, 7th Floor



We invite you to come and hear about the people—not the politics—behind the abortion debate.

Eight abortion providers have been murdered by “pro-life” terrorists since 1993. When such an assassination happens, it’s covered in the news for a day or two—and then we go back to talking about abortion as a political buzzword.

Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism, the new book from Drexel University law professor and Women’s Law Project board member David S. Cohen and attorney Krysten Connon, is the first nationwide exploration of the underbelly of anti-abortion harassment. We often hear about clinic protests, but we rarely hear about targeted harassment of abortion providers and clinic staff while in their homes, at their children’s schools, and in their neighborhood on the weekend. In Living in the Crosshairs, we hear from doctors, nurses and clinic staff who live, raise families, and go to work while under constant threat of violence.

In their new book, Cohen and Connon explore the variety of harassment methods, legal responses to it, and its effects on victims. This is a story about people, with abortion politics as the backdrop. It’s a story about medical professionals who have been followed home, stalked, and have had images of their faces pasted onto “Wanted” posters and buried under a bull’s eye target. It is a story about a doctor who received a phone call at work that his house and barn had been burned to the ground, and his horses were dead; people who felt forced to enroll their children in private schools, hire decoys, wear bulletproof vests, and carry a gun.

Though nationwide in scope, this book was inspired by Cohen’s early work as a staff attorney at the Women’s Law Project and his work representing Jen Boulanger, who is now Director of Communications at The Women’s Center. Boulanger has written extensively about her experience being harassed throughout her career.

At this reception, we will hear from:

*Jen Boulanger, Communications Director of The Women’s Center

*Lynne Molter, Professor of Engineering at Swarthmore College & longtime clinic escort

*Michelle Kinsey Bruns, AKA @ClinicEscort, clinic escort advocate & anti-harassment activist

*Authors David S. Cohen and Krysten Connon

Space is limited. RSVP to Tara Murtha at tmurtha@womenslawproject.org if you plan to attend. Please note you will need to give your name and present current photo ID at the door. No one will be allowed access without photo identification.

Wine and cheese will be served. Reception sponsored by Women’s Law Project & the Philadelphia Women’s Center.








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Only a Few Days Left to Cast Your Online Vote in Our “Say What?” Contest

“[Ebola] may be the great attitude adjustment that I believe is coming. Ebola could solve America’s problems with atheism, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, pornography and abortion.” -Radio reporter Rick Wiles, August 2014

“In our age of sexual equality, why drunk female students are almost never characterized as irresponsible jerks is a question I leave to the feminists. But it is precisely those irresponsible women that the brothers must be trained to identify and protect against, because all it takes is one to bring an entire fraternity system down.” -Forbes magazine contributor Bill Frezza, September 2014

“Would that be considered boobs on the ground, or no?” -Fox News Host Eric Bolling, September 2014


What is the “Say What? Most Witless Words About Women” contest and award?

It’s the special time of year when the Women’s Law Project invites you, dear reader, upstanding citizen, trusty connoisseur of absurdly sexist snubs, to cast your vote for the most witless words about women uttered by real people, in public, in the last year.

Of course, you can cast your vote in person at this Friday’s Rights to Realities party in Pittsburgh, the annual gala thrown by our Western Pennsylvania office.

But you can vote online, too.

The online voting is open until Friday at noon! The “winner” will be announced at the Rights to Realities party. Then after the party, we’ll send him or her an award to let them know what you think of their witless words about women.

Vote here!


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Report: Why We Need to Raise the Minimum Wage in PA

By Tara Murtha, WLP Staff

As the Pennsylvania Legislature considers bills to raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $10.10, a new report breaks down the big-picture and local benefits of hiking the minimum wage.

Currently, minimum wage in Pennsylvania is $7.25, the lowest amount allowed by federal law since 2009.

HB 250 (sponsored by Rep. Patty Kim) and SB 195/196 (sponsored by Sen. Christine Tartaglione) would raise the minimum wage to $10.10. Kim’s bill would raise the tipped minimum wage to 75% of that rate; Sen. Tartaglione’s SB 196 would raise the tipped minimum wage to 70% of the minimum wage. Governor Wolf has stated that he supports the effort.

(Illustration: Keystone Research Center)

(Illustration: Keystone Research Center)

Boosting the minimum wage to $10.10 would raise the wages of 1.2 million workers and create 6,000 new jobs, according to a new Policy Watch report from the Keystone Research Center. The report also breaks down the impact of a raised minimum wage by county.



From the report:

When a significant number of jobs in Pennsylvania don’t pay enough for our neighbors to afford the basics – things like food, car repairs and eye glasses – the local economy suffers. For many in our communities wages are so low that they are forced, even while working, to rely on the local food bank to help make ends meet. Policies to raise the wage and benefits floor can help restore spending on the basics and, in the process, boost the local economy.

Notably, in the Western Pennsylvania counties of Mercer, Armstrong and Indiana, a $10.10 minimum wage would raise the wages of workers by 30% or more.

Additional highlights from the report:

*The majority of workers in Pennsylvania that would get a raise as a result of a statewide minimum wage increase are adults (87%) working full-time (50.3%).

*Philadelphia and Allegheny counties have the largest number of workers that would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour at 135,640 and 113,852 respectively.

*In 46 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, at least one in four workers would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

One the reasons so many adults would benefit from a minimum wage increase is that on average, from 1969 to 2015, the purchasing power of the minimum wage has fallen by 0.4% a year. As corporate lobbying has successfully suppressed the wage floor, the purchasing power of laborers working full-time has plummeted. After adjusting for inflation the hourly earnings of the bottom fifth of workers in Pennsylvania are lower today than they were in 1979.

To attempt to correct that fundamental imbalance, 29 states have already raised minimum wage above the federal minimum of $7.25. Pennsylvania is one of only two states in the Northeast that has not followed suit.

Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 will significantly affect both male and female workers, though more women (58.6%) than men (41.4%). In descending order, white (73.4%) Black (12.4%), Hispanic (9.1%) and Asian (5%) workers will benefit the most from the hike.

Last week, Pennsylvania workers rallied for an increase in the minimum wage in Fight for 15 events across the state. A 2014 poll revealed that the majority of Pennsylvanians, both Republicans and Democrats, support raising the minimum wage.

(Illustration: Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Center)

(Illustration: Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Center)

A recent study revealed that corporations under-paying workers with minimum wage—in some cases, by the very same businesses lobbying to keep that minimum wage artificially low—are forcing taxpayers to subsidize full-time workers with benefits to the tune of $153 billion a year.

The Washington Post called it a “hidden cost” of low minimum wage.


The Agenda for Women’s Health is a legislative package of bills sponsored and supported by the Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania Legislature, a bipartisan, pro-choice group of lawmakers committed to promoting evidence-based policy solutions to real problems faced by Pennsylvania women.

To stay up to date on the Agenda for Women’s Health, follow our blogtwitterfacebook and tumblr pages. Sign up for our action alerts, so that we can keep you posted and tell you what you can do to show support for the Agenda, and be part of the expanding movement of ordinary Pennsylvanians calling for rational, evidence-based policy solutions to the problems faced by women in Pennsylvania.

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Rights to Realities: Come to WLP of Western PA’s Party on May 1

In 2002, the Women’s Law Project, the only public interest law firm in Pennsylvania devoted to women’s rights, opened an office in Pittsburgh so we could more directly serve and support the women of Western Pennsylvania.  We are proud of all the work we’ve been able to accomplish in the region over the past thirteen years to advance and protect women’s and girls’ rights.

We hope that you can help sustain our work by coming to our party on May 1st at 5:30 p.m. at the Fairmont Pittsburgh’s Grand Ballroom.

We call our annual party “Rights to Realities” because that is what we try to do—translate, leverage and improve the law so that it benefits the working people, and especially women, of Pennsylvania. So often, women’s rights exist on paper or in a textbook, but are not protected in practice. We litigate high-impact cases to clarify and advance women’s rights, advocate for evidence-based policy and legislative solutions, and educate constituents on legal issues that affect women’s health and economic security.

Because the Women’s Law Project is a non-profit organization and does not charge for its legal services, we need your support in order to help sustain our work and keep making rights become realities. We have been working incredibly hard this year to promote and protect women’s health and economic security, and we do it all  on private foundation grants and the generosity of individual supporters like you.

We’ve been busy planning an amazing party. Guests can look forward to several fantastic silent and live-auction items (to be auctioned off by our entertaining and charismatic celebrity guest auctioneer, former Pennsylvania state Representative Erin Molchany), live jazz music, delicious food and drinks, and of course the opportunity to mingle and celebrate with over 200 fellow women’s rights supporters.

We’ll also announce the much-anticipated “winner” of our annual “Say What?” contest. For our “Say What?” contest, we collect unbelievably sexist things said about women—by real people, in public—and you vote for the worst. After we count up the votes, we send the “winner” a little something to let them know what the good people of Pennsylvania think of their views of women.

Cast a vote here.

You can register for the party here or calling us at (412) 281-2892, and please invite your friends on Facebook. We look forward to celebrating with you on May 1!



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