We took a short break from sending a monthly newsletter, but now we’re back. There’s a lot going on, and we want to make sure you have every opportunity to stay up to date on our work and what’s happening in women’s and worker’s rights in Pennsylvania.
In a case called In Re: LJB, we successfully requested that the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania re-consider whether a woman’s behavior while pregnant can be considered child abuse under civil law. This case may have profound implications for pregnant people, and anyone who could become pregnant.
We’re living in a time where relentless attacks on reproductive rights are colliding with an explosive opioid epidemic, a combination that threatens both civil rights and public health. In early June, we authored and filed an amicus brief in Commonwealth v. Dischman, a case in which the defendant was charged with a first-degree felony after she overdosed on opioids while pregnant. Yet, the relevant criminal statute has a clear immunity provision protecting pregnant women from prosecution for conduct during their pregnancy.
We are representing the freestanding abortion providers who have a direct interest in a Pennsylvania Right-to-Know appeal before the Office of Open Records. Jean Crocco, an employee of the extremist anti-abortion Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League, is asking the Pennsylvania Health Department to turn over the names of doctors and other clinic personnel contained in the clinics’ license applications. The Department correctly withheld this information; our legal filings argue that the history of violence and disruption against abortion providers justifies the Department’s action. A decision is expected on or before June 29, 2018.
We continue to support the City of Philadelphia in defending the city’s prior-wage equal pay ordinance in a case where WLP attorneys authored and filed an amicus brief on behalf of 27 organizations. The latest update on the case is that both the City of Philadelphia and the Chamber of Commerce have appealed the split decision ruling.
On May 18, we proudly joined our friends from Raise the Wage PA at a press conference in Media, Pennsylvania to explain how raising the minimum wage is a both women’s issue and a worker’s issue, and why eliminating the tipped wage would be an effective strategy to address sexual harassment in the restaurant industry. While we’re on the topic, check out this article highlighting the work of Coalition for Health and Safety in Restaurants, a Philadelphia-based coalition working to prevent sexual harassment in restaurants.
On May 22, we co-sponsored a rally at the Capitol organized by MomsRising. We called on lawmakers to pass legislation to address sexual harassment in Pennsylvania, and highlighted the #MeToo policy agenda we developed to improve and update sexual harassment protections for workers across the state.
Good News Department
Governor Tom Wolf signed an executive order addressing equal pay for state employees. The executive order:
- No longer ask job applicants their salary history during the hiring process;
- Base salaries on job responsibilities, position pay range, and the applicant’s job knowledge and skills;
- Clearly explain the pay range on job postings.
Of course, we are still fighting for the state Legislature to advance a bill that would address equal pay for all Pennsylvania workers.
We were there in person at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia when the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the rights of transgender students to use restrooms and facilities that reflect their gender identity. Attorneys at the Women’s Law Project and co-counsel at Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in support of the Boyertown policy that argues that the presence of transgender students in facilities corresponding to their gender identity does not violate Title IX. Rather, Title IX protects the rights of transgender students to use those facilities.
Every year, we review sex crimes files at the Philadelphia Police Department in order to improve policy accountability and address gender bias in policing sex crimes. The annual advocate-led review is sometimes called “the Philadelphia Model” for where it originated or “the Timoney model” for John Timoney, the late police captain whose focus on reform helped initiate the project. This recent NBC10 report provides a great overview of our work’s origins and goals.
Thank you to everyone who attended Rights to Realities, our annual spring gala in Pittsburgh! We had a record-breaking attendance, and look forward to making it even bigger next year. We appreciate your support. As a non-profit organization that does not charge for our services, we are not exaggerating when we say we couldn’t do this work without you.
Catch up on WLP in the News
- May 29: KYW Newsradio: City’s wage history ban is not quite dead yet
- May 24: NBC10: The Annual Ritual Shaping How the Philadelphia Police Department Handles Rape, Abuse Cases
- May 18: WESA-FM: The Politics And Ethics Of Pennsylvania’s Proposed Down Syndrome Abortion Ban
- May 10: Daily Item: Supreme Court to consider if drug use during pregnancy is abuse
- May 9: PennLive.com: Just in time for the primary, Pa. House Republicans launch another attack on abortion rights
- May 8: The Express: Arguments filed in abuse case
- May 7: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Employers can ask what you made at the last job, but there are limits
- May 2: KYW Newsradio: Employers (not) banned from inquiring about applicant’s salary history
Catch up on our Blog Posts
- May 31: City of Philadelphia Still Fighting The Chamber of Commerce’s Effort to Block Equal Pay Law
- May 30: WLP Analysis: U.S. Supreme Court Guts Workers’ Rights
- May 24: Victory: Third Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms Rights of Transgender Students
- May 24: What You Need to Know about Trump’s Attack on Title X
- May 15: Calling All Moms (and Mom Supporters)! Join Us to Advocate for Workplace Equality in PA on May 22
- May 10: Litigation Update: Briefs Filed in Case Re: If Prenatal Drug Use is Child Abuse Under Civil Law
- May 2: Split Ruling on Lawsuit to Block Philadelphia’s Equal Pay Ordinance
Look for an explainer on why the aforementioned case Commonwealth v. Dischman is so important, an action alert when #HB129, the bill that targets women, disabled people and the elderly recovering from addiction, when it heads to the Pennsylvania Senate, and lots more. Stay tuned.
The Women’s Law Project is a public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.
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.