Category Archives: Working Women

FLSA Section 7(r): A New Break for Mothers

Source: Michael McGrorty, Labor Law Journal, Vol. 62 no. 2, Summer 2011
(subscription required)

In recent years, many states have enacted laws concerning breastfeeding. While the majority if these laws simply exempt breastfeeding from the list of acts constituting public nudity, lewdness, and indecent exposure, an increasing number require employers to permit, and even facilitate expressing breast milk in the workplace.

The Gender Wage Gap by Occupation

Source: Ariane Hegewisch, Claudia Williams, Amber Henderson, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, IWPR #C350a, April 2011

The gender wage gap and occupational segregation – men primarily working in occupations done by other men, and women primarily working with other women – are persistent features of the US labor market. During 2010, median weekly earnings for female full-time workers were $669, compared with $824 per week for men, a gender wage ratio of 81.2 percent (Table 1; or a gender wage gap of 18.8 percent). Women’s median earnings are lower than men’s in nearly all occupations, whether they work in occupations predominantly done by women, occupations predominantly done by men, or occupations with a more even mix of men and women. Four of ten women (41.1 percent) work in traditionally female occupations, and close to five of ten male workers (49.3 percent) work in traditionally male occupations. Typically, male dominated occupations pay more than female dominated occupations at similar skill level. Tackling occupational segregation is an important part of tackling the gender wage gap.

Poor, Pregnant, and Fired: Caregiver Discrimination Against Low-Wage Workers

Source: Stephanie Bornstein, Center for WorkLife Law, University of California, Hastings College of the Law, 2011

With limited financial resources, few social supports, and high family caregiving demands, low-wage workers go off to work every day to jobs that offer low pay, few days off, and little flexibility or schedule stability. It should come as no surprise, then, that workers’ family lives conflict with their jobs. What is surprising is the response at work when they do.

This report provides a survey of family responsibilities discrimination (FRD) lawsuits that low-wage workers brought against their employers when they were unfairly penalized at work because of their caregiving responsibilities at home. The report reflects a review of cases brought by low-wage hourly workers, drawn from the more than 2600 cases collected by the Center for WorkLife Law in its FRD case database to date. Fifty such cases are used to illustrate trends in caregiver discrimination lawsuits brought by low-wage workers.

Three key points emerge:
– Low-income families are caught between extreme demands at both home and work.
– Most low-wage workers go to extraordinary measures to meet both work and family responsibilities.
– Low-wage workers often face overwhelming family responsibilities with few social supports.

Ending Sex and Race Discrimination in the Workplace: Legal Interventions That Push the Envelope

Source: Ariane Hegewisch, Cynthia Deitch and Evelyn Murphy, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2011

Race and sex discrimination in employment, covering recruitment, pay and compensation, training and promotion, was made illegal by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Successful employment discrimination lawsuits may result in individual relief, such as monetary compensation for individual victims of discrimination and injunctive relief, such as changes to the employer’s human resource management policies and practices aimed at creating a workplace free of discrimination for all workers. Very few employment discrimination lawsuits, however, actually result in injunctive relief. Those that include injunctive relief most commonly are court-supervised pre-trial settlements called consent decrees.

This report draws on the IWPR/WAGE Consent Decree Database to analyze the injunctive relief awarded in 502 sex and/or race discrimination settlements that became effective between 2000 and 2008. We find that some consent decrees provide innovative and far-reaching remedies to counter previous sources of inequality, whereas others require little more than posting notices and conducting diversity awareness training. The Database includes a sample of U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) consent decrees, and all publicly accessible U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and privately litigated class-action consent decrees. In addition, the report examines detailed case studies to show how injunctive relief was negotiated and implemented in particularly innovative consent decrees.

Job Patterns for Minorities and Women in State and Local Government (EEO-4)

Source: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2011

As part of its mandate under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requires periodic reports from public and private employers, and unions and labor organizations which indicate the composition for their work forces by sex and by race/ethnic category.

EEOC collects labor force data from state and local governments with 100 or more employees within 50 U.S. states and District of Columbia. The reporting agencies provide information on their employment totals, employees’ job category and salary by sex and race/ethnic groups as of June 30 of the survey year. Since 1993 the EEO4 survey is conducted biennially in every odd-numbered year.

The confidentiality provision which governs release of these data (section 709 (e) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972) prohibits release of individual identifiable information. However data in aggregated format for major geographic areas and by government types and functions for state and local governments are available as shown below.

* 2009 Tables
* 2007 Tables
* 2005 Tables

Women at Work

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Spotlight on Statistics, March 2011

Until things slowly changed during the last century, women’s participation in the labor force was limited by traditional cultural, educational, and legal practices. Women’s work outside of home and marriage was restricted to a handful of occupations such as domestic service, factory work, farm work, and teaching. Over the past several decades, the women’s labor force in the United States and throughout the world has experienced many changes. Women’s labor force participation rates are significantly higher today than they were in the 1970s. Throughout that period, women have increasingly attained higher levels of education and experienced an increase in their earnings as a proportion of men’s earnings. In addition to highlighting the past, present, and future of women in the workforce, this Spotlight presents BLS data on the types of activities that women spend their time doing during an average week, how they choose to spend their hard-earned money, and the nature of fatal injuries in the workplace.

Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being

Source: Office of Management and Budget and the Economics and Statistics Administration within the Department of Commerce, March 2011

From the summary:
This report, prepared for the White House Council on Women and Girls, presents selected indicators of women’s social and economic well-being currently and over time. The report is intended for a general audience, with the hope that it will be useful to policymakers, policy analysts, journalists, policy advocates, and all those interested in women’s issues.

The indicators have been grouped into five areas of interest:
• People, Families, and Income.
• Education.
• Employment.
• Health.
• Crime and Violence.

The demographic landscape of the United States has changed considerably in recent decades. Life expectancy has increased significantly. Changing roles of women have reshaped patterns in marriage and divorce, childbearing, living arrangements, and aspirations for education and career development. Immigration has increased. These trends have in turn affected the age, sex, racial and ethnic composition of the population. All these trends both affect–and are affected by–economic growth and technological change. A comprehensive sorting out of the causes and effects of these many demographic changes is beyond the scope of this report. However, it is clear that these complex and multidimensional phenomena affect women and men differently.
Demographic changes have resulted in an aging population with a larger female share. Until about 1950, the population was majority male. Now, nearly 51 percent of the population is female, with four million more females than males. The long-term trends that resulted in a female majority in the population were driven in part by midcentury reductions in immigration (particularly by men) coupled with life expectancy increases for women that outpaced those of men. The gender imbalance is even larger at age 65 and older, where women have a 57 percent population share.

Health Care Refusals: Undermining Quality Care for Women

Source: National Health Law Program, 2010

From the press release:
Medical care for women is severely undermined by the growing refusal to provide treatment for ideological or religious reasons. In some cases, this denial of medical care endangers women’s lives. The report, “Health Care Refusals: Undermining Quality Care for Women,” released today by the National Health Law Program (NHeLP), documents to what extent these denials conflict with professionally developed, accepted medical standards of care, and analyzes the medical and health consequences to patients.

Women and Men in the Public Sector

Source: Jeff Hayes, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, February 2011

The figure and tables below show workers in the public sector by gender. The first table shows that public sector employment has mostly shrunk since 2008, particularly among women. The only growth in public sector employment is at the federal level–and only among men.

Failing its Families

Source: Human Rights Watch, 2011

From the abstract:
This report is based on interviews with 64 parents across the country. It documents the health and financial impact on American workers of having little or no paid family leave after childbirth or adoption, employer reticence to offer breastfeeding support or flexible schedules, and workplace discrimination against new parents, especially mothers. Parents said that having scarce or no paid leave contributed to delaying babies’ immunizations, postpartum depression and other health problems, and caused mothers to give up breastfeeding early. Many who took unpaid leave went into debt and some were forced to seek public assistance. Some women said employer bias against working mothers derailed their careers. Same-sex parents were often denied even unpaid leave.
See also:
Press release