Category Archives: Working Women

Top 10 Things Unions Can Do Right Now to Address Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Source: Ana Avendaño and Linda Seabrook, On Labor blog, November 10, 2017

…. The following are practices that unions could adopt right now to address sexual harassment in America’s workplaces:

1)      Recognize that sexual harassment is a workers’ rights issue. ….
2)      Make sure that the union’s constitution and collectively bargained agreements contain guarantees against sexual harassment and retaliation. ….
3)      Address member-on-member harassment. ….
4)      Create a union culture that connects union values and behavior and welcomes women as equal partners in the struggle for social and economic justice. ….
5)      Focus on prevention. ….
6)      Encourage men—especially male leaders—to step up, speak out, and work to change the culture. ….
7)      Create channels for members, union staff and others to report harassment quickly, before it escalates, without having to resort to formal mechanisms. ….
8)      Train stewards in trauma-informed practices on handling claims of harassment. ….
9)      Protect victims who file charges of harassment against retaliation. ….
10)   Give women a voice in the grievance process, and include them as active participants. ….

Progress toward Pay Equity in State Governments?

Source: Gregory B. Lewis, Jonathan Boyd and Rahul Pathak, Public Administration review, Early View, December 28, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Are state governments fulfilling their responsibilities to be model employers of women and minorities? Using U.S. Census Bureau data on individual employees from 1980 to 2015, this article looks at how much progress state governments have made toward eliminating racial and gender pay differences. It examines whether differences in education, age/experience, citizenship, English ability, hours worked, and occupation explain the pay differences. Patterns and explanations vary substantially by group, but state governments are doing a better job than private firms of closing pay gaps on almost every measure.

Oops, He (or She) Did It Again! Implementing a Best-in-Class Harassment-Free Workplace Program to Help Your Company Stay Out of the Headlines

Source: Amy L. Bess, Aaron R. Gelb, and Heather M. Sager, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 43, No. 3, Winter 2017
(subscription required)

While much has been written about workplace harassment, this article provides a refresher of the nuts-and-bolts aspects of an effective harassment prevention program—from preventive measures such as policies and procedures and management/employee training programs to key considerations and best practices to keep in mind should you find your company conducting an investigation, including important confidentiality considerations. Consistent adherence to these principles should help employers reduce the number of claims and better defend those that are brought.

Sexual Harassment and our Undemocratic Workplaces

Source: Andrew Strom, On Labor blog, November 27, 2017

…. In many cases there are no witnesses to the offending conduct, and rank-and-file workers generally have little reason to believe that top management will take their word over the word of a supervisor. A union grievance procedure at least gives workers an opportunity to appeal to a neutral decision maker. But in a non-union setting, it is rare, if not unheard of, for an internal process to end with the equivalent of a truly independent judge or jury.

Providing training about “dos” and “don’ts” is not going to end sexual harassment unless employers also take steps to democratize the workplace. At-will employment, the norm in most workplaces, creates an environment that makes harassment more likely. If workers can be disciplined or fired for any reason, they know that workplace survival depends upon currying favor with their boss. ….

…. If we wanted to stop a dictator from abusing the citizens of his country, we wouldn’t just give him a lecture about human rights. Instead, we would work to build democratic institutions in the country. But the basic elements of democracy that we take for granted in this country – the right to free speech, one person, one vote, the right to due process – are absent in most workplaces. If we as a society are committed to addressing the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace, it’s time to change that. ….

Want to stop sexual abuse in the workplace? Unionize.

Source: Jeff Spross, The Week, November 27, 2017

….Harassment occurs at all levels of the economy precisely because it’s bound up with economic hierarchy. Women (and sometimes men) are targeted because they’re dependent on someone else — be it a boss or customer — for an income, a job, a promotion, a career path, etc. Women in low-wage work also often face retaliation for trying to fight back: not merely the loss of a career, but the loss of a viable income of any form.

We need to confront the workplace hierarchy directly. That means unions and labor organizing. It means demands for more democratic workplaces, and established institutions and practices for dealing with sexual harassment. Many companies already have human resource departments, and labor movements can and should force the creation of more. But even these can wind up focusing more on the business’ bottom line than the interests of owners. All of these demands must be backed by workers’ ability to threaten protests, work stoppages, and strikes…..

Persistent Gaps: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2017

Source: Karen Schulman and Helen Blank, National Women’s Law Center, October 2017

From the summary:
Child care is crucial for the well-being of parents, children, and our nation. It makes it possible for parents to work and support their families. It gives children a safe, nurturing environment to learn and develop skills they need to succeed in school and in life. And, by strengthening the current and future workforce, it bolsters our nation’s economy. Yet many families, particularly low-income families, struggle with the high cost of child care. These costs can strain families’ budgets, force parents to use lower-cost care even if they would prefer other options for their children, or prevent parents from working because they cannot afford care. Child care assistance can enable families to overcome these challenges by helping families pay for child care.

Given the importance of child care assistance to families, it is essential for states to have strong child care assistance policies. Under the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the major federal child care assistance program, states have flexibility to set policies within federal parameters. This report examines states’ policies in five key areas—income eligibility limits to qualify for child care assistance, waiting lists for child care assistance, copayments required of parents receiving child care assistance, payment rates for child care providers serving families receiving child care assistance, and eligibility for child care assistance for parents searching for a job. These policies are fundamental to determining families’ ability to obtain child care assistance and the extent of help that assistance provides.

– Families in 41 states were better off—having greater access to assistance and/or receiving greater benefits from assistance—in February 2017 than in February 2016 under one or more child care assistance policies covered in this report.
– Families in 14 states were worse off under one or more of these policies in February 2017 than in February 2016.

Although there were more improvements than cutbacks between 2016 and 2017, the improvements states made were generally modest and too small to close persistent, substantial gaps in families’ access to assistance and the level of assistance available.

Paid Family Leave, Fathers’ Leave-Taking, and Leave-Sharing in Dual-Earner Households

Source: Ann P. Bartel, Maya Rossin-Slater, Christopher J. Ruhm, Jenna Stearns, Jane Waldfogel, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Early View, November 6, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Using difference-in-difference and difference-in-difference-in-difference designs, we study California’s Paid Family Leave (CA-PFL) program, the first source of government-provided paid parental leave available to fathers in the Unites States. Relative to the pre-treatment mean, fathers of infants in California are 46 percent more likely to be on leave when CA-PFL is available. In households where both parents work, we find suggestive evidence that CA-PFL increases both father-only leave-taking (i.e., father on leave while mother is at work) and joint leave-taking (i.e., both parents on leave at the same time). Effects are larger for fathers of first-born children than for fathers of later-born children.

Taxpayers are subsidizing hush money for sexual harassment and assault

Source: Peter J. Henning, The Conversation, November 5, 2017

Many of the recent stories about sexual abuse claims against disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and other powerful actors, journalists and executives mention settlements either they or their employers made to silence women who accused them of misconduct.

These settlements often require alleged victims to sign a nondisclosure agreement – essentially a pledge of secrecy – in exchange for a cash payment. They are designed to keep the reputations of allegedly abusive high-flyers intact, an arrangement that can allow repeated wrongdoing.

As a law professor who focuses on white-collar crime, what I find striking about these contracts is how they can be treated as tax-deductible business expenses. That means American taxpayers are helping foot the bill for keeping despicable behavior in the shadows.

I don’t believe that secret payments to settle sexual abuse claims should be tax-deductible. Here’s why…..

Income Inequality and Household Labor

Source: Daniel Schneider, Orestes P Hastings, Social Forces, Advance articles, Published: 23 October 2017

From the abstract:
Income inequality has increased dramatically in the United States since the mid-1970s. This remarkable change in the distribution of household income has spurred a great deal of research on the social and economic consequences of exposure to high inequality. However, the empirical record on the effects of income inequality is mixed. In this paper, we suggest that previous research has generally overlooked a simple but important pathway through which inequality might manifest in daily life: inequality shapes the ability of women to outsource domestic labor by hiring others to perform it. One important venue where such dynamics might then manifest is in time spent on housework, and in particular in the time divide in housework between women of high and low socio-economic status. We combine micro-data from the 2003–2013 American Time Use Survey with area-level data on income inequality to show that the class divide in housework time between women with a college degree and from high-earning households and women of lower socio-economic status is wider in more unequal places. We further assess whether this gap can be explained by domestic outsourcing by combining micro-data from the 2003–2013 Consumer Expenditure Survey with area-level data on income inequality and show that the gap in spending for household services between households of high and low socio-economic status also increases in contexts of higher inequality.

Women in the Workplace 2017

Source: McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org, 2017

Women in the Workplace 2017 is a comprehensive study of the state of women in corporate America. This research is part of a long-term partnership between LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company to give organizations the information they need to promote women’s leadership and foster gender equality.

This year 222 companies employing more than 12 million people shared their pipeline data and completed a survey of HR practices. In addition, more than 70,000 employees completed a survey designed to explore their experiences regarding gender, opportunity, career, and work-life issues. To our knowledge, this makes Women in the Workplace the largest study of its kind.

Key findings:

  • The bar for gender equality is too low
  • Nearly 50 percent of men think women are well represented in leadership in companies where only one in ten senior leaders is a woman. A much smaller but still significant number of women agree: a third think women are well represented when they see one in ten in leadership.

  • Women hit the glass ceiling early
  • At the first critical step up to manager, women are 18 percent less likely to be promoted than their male peers. This gender disparity has a dramatic effect on the representation of women: if entry-level women were promoted at the same rate as their male peers, the number of women at the SVP and C-suite levels would more than double.

  • Men are more likely to say they get what they want without having to ask
  • Women of all races and ethnicities negotiate for raises and promotions at rates comparable to their male counterparts. However, men are more likely to say they have not asked for a raise because they are already well compensated or a promotion because they are already in the right role.

  • Women get less of the support that advances careers
  • Women are less likely to receive advice from managers and senior leaders on how to advance, and employees who do are more likely to say they’ve been promoted in the last two years. Similarly, women are less likely to interact regularly with senior leaders, yet employees who do are more likely to aspire to be top executives.

  • Women are less optimistic they can reach the top
  • Women are less likely than men to aspire to be a top executive, and those who do are significantly less likely than men to think they’ll become one. However, when you look at ambition by race and ethnicity, both women and men of color are more interested in becoming a top executive than white women and men.

  • Men are less committed to gender diversity efforts
  • Men are less likely to say gender diversity is a top personal priority and point to concern over de-emphasizing individual performance as the primary reason. Some men even feel that gender diversity efforts disadvantage them: 15 percent of men think their gender will make it harder for them to advance.

  • Many women still work a double shift
  • On average, 54 percent of women do all or most of the household work, compared to 22 percent of men. This gap grows when couples have children. Women with a partner and children are 5.5 times more likely than their male counterparts to do all or most of the household work. Even when women are primary breadwinners, they do more work at home.