Category Archives: Working Women

Managing the Expanding Definition of “Discrimination”: A Practical Review of the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and Its consequences for Employers

Source: Micahel Brittan and Amy Onder, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 35 no. 2, Autumn 2009
(subscription required)

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law following the bill’s passage in the House of Representatives two days earlier. The Fair Pay Act allows individuals and other affected parties to file charges of alleged pay discrimination under title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act. The Fair Pay Act effectively overturns a portion of the US Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter V. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., Inc. The authors outline the current situation both in terms of how women and other employees fare in equitable pay and what norms exist for setting salaries, negotiation increased pay, determining what factors constitute merit, and evaluating whether recruiting practices have a disproportionately negative effect on pay. The authors believe that previous gender pay gap studies are incomplete and often misleading. While the Act arguably ensures fair pay, some feel that the Act too broadly tolls the statute of limitations period for such claims. Many also fear that employers will now base pay decisions on gender rather than on merit, education, and experience. This article provides proactive steps for employers seeking guidance on practices that ensure fair pay decisions.

An Examination of the Workplace Experiences of Police Patrol Officers: The Role of Race, Sex, and Sexual Orientation

Source: K. D. Hassell, S. G. Brandl, Police Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 4, 2009
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Reform efforts in many police departments have diversified the workforce, especially with regard to race, sex, and sexual orientation. Research, however, has demonstrated that the assimilation of these officers has not been problem-free. Using data collected from a large, municipal police department, this article examines the workplace experiences of patrol officers and a potential consequence of those experiences: stress. We find that being female and being a racial/ethnic minority brings with it substantially different experiences on the job compared to male and White officers. Our findings also confirm previous research that workplace climate has an effect on workplace stress.

The Changing Face of Labor, 1983-2008

Source: John Schmitt and Kris Warner, Center for Economic and Policy Research, November 2009

From the summary:
Over the last quarter century, the unionized workforce has changed dramatically, according to this new CEPR report. In 2008, union workers reflected trends in the workforce as a whole toward a greater share of women, Latinos, Asian Pacific Americans, older, more-educated workers, and a shift out of manufacturing toward services.

“The view that the typical union worker is a white male manufacturing worker may have been correct a quarter of a century ago, but it’s not an accurate description of those in today’s labor movement,” said John Schmitt, a CEPR Senior Economist and an author of the report.
See also:
Press Release

Green Equity Toolkit: Standards and Strategies for Advancing Race, Gender and Economic Equity in the Green Economy

Source: Yvonne Yen Liu and Terry Keleher, Applied Research Center, November 2009

The Green Equity Toolkit: Standards and Strategies for Advancing Race, Gender and Economic Equity in the Green Economy highlights green equity success stories and practical steps for how labor and community organizers can advocate for equity and inclusion in the green economy.

The Toolkit, developed by the Applied Research Center in conjunction with several organizational allies, includes Principles, Goals, Outcomes, Strategies, Success Indicators and Examples for making race, gender and economic equity a priority in green-collar job creation.

For instance, in Los Angeles, advocates working with Apollo Alliance forced the city to adopt a green retrofit ordinance that promises to create jobs for communities of color struggling with the economic crisis. The Detroit Community Food Security Network has influenced public policy to promote urban agriculture and access to healthy food options for residents, who are majority people of color.

In the months ahead, the Toolkit will be supplemented by Case Studies and a Model Policy Bank.

Race and Sex in Organizing Work: ‘Diversity,’ Discrimination, and Integration

Source: Tristin Green, Emory Law Journal, 2009

From the abstract:
This Article provides the first extended analysis of the conscious use of race and sex in decisions organizing work. It takes the position that race and sex are being used in organizing work-in assigning clients and job tasks, in composing work teams, in staffing committees and outreach groups-and that they are being used pursuant to a “diversity” narrative in ways that are likely to entrench workplace inequality. At the same time, it argues that race and sex could be used in those same decisions to reduce workplace discrimination and to further equality in work. Drawing on a rich body of research in sociology, social psychology, and organizational theory, the Article exposes the risks and possibilities of race and sex in organizing work by focusing on the role that social interactions play in producing and reproducing disadvantage and on the role of organizational and institutional structures in shaping those interactions.

Based on this empirical foundation and on the Supreme Court case law governing the use of race and sex in employment decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Article advances a comprehensive approach to the permissibility of race and sex in decisions organizing work. It argues that Title VII permits the use of race and sex in decisions organizing work to serve the goal of reducing employment discrimination, provided that individual race- and sex-based decisions are part of an employer’s systemic integrative effort. This approach recognizes that decisions organizing work differ from decisions at moments of entry, promotion, and exit in ways that matter to an anti discrimination analysis. They are “softer” in that their benefits and harms are not always immediately discernible, and they can impose costs as well as benefits on women and people of color, even when they are intended to (and do) further anti discrimination goals. The approach to Title VII developed in this Article accounts for these differences and offers a unique opportunity to harness the existing business case for diversity to progress meaningful integration in work and to foster reduced workplace discrimination.

The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything

Source: Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress, edited by Heather Boushey and Ann O’Leary, October 16, 2009

From the summary:
This report describes how a woman’s nation changes everything about how we live and work today. Now for the first time in our nation’s history, women are half of all U.S. workers and mothers are the primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of American families. This is a dramatic shift from just a generation ago (in 1967 women made up only one-third of all workers). It changes how women spend their days and has a ripple effect that reverberates throughout our nation. It fundamentally changes how we all work and live, not just women but also their families, their co-workers, their bosses, their faith institutions, and their communities.

Quite simply, women as half of all workers changes everything.
See also:
A Woman’s Nation

Still Nowhere to Turn: Insurance Companies Treat Women Like a Pre-Existing Condition

Source: Brigette Courtot and Julia Kaye, National Women’s Law Center, 2009

The National Women’s Law Center (“NWLC” or “the Center”) has examined the current status of the widespread individual market insurance practices that it first reviewed in a 2008 report, Nowhere to Turn: How the Individual Health Insurance Market Fails Women. These include gender rating, or the practice of charging same-aged women and men different premiums for identical health coverage; exclusions of coverage that only women need, like maternity care; and rejecting applicants for insurance coverage for reasons that include status as a survivor of domestic violence. In addition, in this report NWLC has investigated two previously unexplored issues: whether individual health insurance premiums are higher for a non-smoking woman even when compared to a man of the same age who reports tobacco usage, and the use and impact of gender rating in the group health insurance market.

NWLC has found that women continue to face unfair and discriminatory practices when obtaining health insurance in the individual market–as well as in the group health insurance market. Women are charged more for coverage simply because they are women, and individual market health plans often exclude coverage for services that only women need, like maternity care. In short, in the health insurance system, being a woman amounts to being treated like a “pre-existing condition.”

Women in the Labor Force: A Databook (2009 Edition)

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Report 1018, September 2009

From the introduction:
The past several decades have been marked by notable changes in women’s labor force activities. Women’s labor force participation is significantly higher today than it was in the 970s, particularly among women with children, and a larger share of women work full time and year round than in past decades. In addition, women have increasingly attained higher levels of education: among women aged 25 to 64 who are in the labor force, the pro- portion with a college degree roughly tripled from 1970 to 2008. Women’s earnings as a proportion of men’s earnings also have grown over time. In 1979, women working full time earned 62 percent of what men did; in 2008, women’s earnings were 80 percent of men’s.

This report presents historical and current labor force and earnings data for women and men from the Current Population Survey (CPS). The CPS is a national monthly survey of approximately 60,000 households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unless otherwise noted, data are annual averages from the CPS. Users should note that the comparisons of earnings in this report are on a broad level and do not control for many factors that can be significant in explaining earnings differences.

America’s Families and Living Arrangements 2007

Source: Rose M. Kreider and Diana B. Elliott, U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, September 2009

Some highlights of the report are:
– Sixty-eight percent of households in 2007 were family households, compared with 81 percent in 1970.
– The proportion of one-person households increased by 10 percentage points between 1970 and 2007, from 17 percent to 27 percent.
– Between 1970 and 2007, the average number of people per household declined from 3.1 to 2.6.
– Most family groups with children under 18 (67 percent) were maintained by married couples.
– The vast majority of fathers who lived with their child under 18 also lived with the child’s mother (94 percent). In comparison, 74 percent of mothers living with their child under 18 also lived with the child’s father.
– Stay-at-home mothers were younger and had younger children than other mothers.
– Stay-at-home mothers were more likely to be Hispanic than non-stay-at-home mothers.
– Stay-at-home mothers were more likely to be foreign born than non-stay-at-home mothers.
– Among children living with a parent, younger children were more likely than older children to live with two unmarried parents. So, while 10 percent of infants under age 1 lived with two unmarried parents, 1 percent of children 12 to 17 lived with two unmarried parents.
– Among children living with unmarried parents, older children were more likely than younger children to live with their father only, with no other adult present. Only about 2 percent of children under 3 lived with their father who was the sole adult, while 11 percent of teens 12 to 17 did.
See also:
Census Report Shines New Light on Women “Opting Out”
Source: Sue Shellenbarger, Wall Street Journal, October 5, 2009

Equitable Prescription Drug Coverage: Preventing Sex Discrimination in Employer-Provided Health Plans

Source: Steve Befort and Elizabeth Canney Borer, Louisiana Law Review, Vol. 70, 2009

From the abstract:
Nearly half of large, employer-sponsored group health plans in the United States do not cover prescription contraceptives used by women. This exclusion contributes to unintended pregnancies, higher out-of-pocket expenses, and adverse social consequences. The federal courts currently are split on whether this exclusion violates Title VII as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). In a recent decision that is of first impression at the circuit court level, the Eighth Circuit ruled in In re Union Pacific Railroad Employment Practices Litigation that the lack of contraception coverage in an employee health insurance plan that covered Rogaine and Viagra for men did not violate the PDA because contraception is not related to pregnancy.

This article reviews the pertinent legislative history and case law and proposes a two-part strategy for expanding the availability of prescription contraceptives in employer-sponsored health plans. First, employers that exclude prescription contraceptives from employee health insurance plans should be held to violate the PDA. Such a violation occurs because the failure to provide insurance coverage for prescription contraceptives necessarily affects a sex-related medical condition since only women can become pregnant. This article additionally urges the adoption of an amendment to ERISA – the Equity in Prescription Insurance and Contraceptive Coverage Act – which would mandate all group health plans to include prescription coverage as a matter of federal law. Such an enactment would avoid ERISA preemption and serve to require prescription contraceptive coverage in both insurance-based and self-insured employer health plans.