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Posts Tagged ‘Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’

Late last month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued an important decision protecting workers from sex discrimination in the workplace — but you may not have recognized it as such. On April 20, the EEOC released an opinion that said gender-identity discrimination is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the provision that has been the legal foundation for fighting sexual harassment and other forms of sex discrimination at work.

This opinion builds off of legal precedents from the 1980s and 1990s in cases where a woman was passed up for a job opportunity because she didn’t act or look feminine enough and where a man was sexually harassed and threatened by other men at work. This legal history drives home the fact that discrimination against the women who tend to be the key players in women’s activism — professional, heterosexual women who aren’t trans — is inextricably linked to the gender discrimination that other people face, including trans folks. Whether an employer tells a man that he shouldn’t act like a sissy, a woman that she shouldn’t wear revealing clothing if she doesn’t want to get hit on, or trans folk that they can’t or shouldn’t identify however they choose, workplace sex discrimination is about having to conform to the gender performance that your boss or colleagues prefer. As workers, we have the right to deviate from the gender norm that others want to enforce on us without sacrificing our livelihoods.

A TransGender-Symbol Plain2 by ParaDox used via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Germany Thus, as a community of women’s activists, we should celebrate the EEOC’s opinion on Title VII, which will make it easier for trans folks to bring claims to EEOC offices across the country and make it easier to file suit against discriminatory employers. But we shouldn’t stop at celebrating. Though the EEOC’s decision will reverberate in federal courts, we need to be vigilant to ensure that more, stronger protections build on top of this decision by supporting legislation like the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (S. 811/H.R. 1397).

Protecting trans folks’ rights makes the workplace safer for everyone, but it also starts a cultural conversation about gender identity and raises awareness about not just the discrimination but also the threat of bodily harm that trans folks face when using bathrooms or just going out in public. Sadly, we’ve seen how grave this problem really is in the recent spate of assaults and murders of trans people.

Transgender issues are hard for many women and feminists to wrap their heads around, in some ways even more than the lesbian, gay, and bisexual issues that are often politically related to trans politics. And incorporating intersectional differences like sexuality, gender identity, race, class, disability, and others is a serious challenge in political organizing. In the women’s movement, this tension goes way back — from the suffragette split over whether to support the 15th Amendment to the “threat” of associating with radical lesbians that some women’s libbers dubbed the “lavender menace.” In hindsight, we know that feminism can and must incorporate difference to stay alive, to stay effective, and to stay honest.

In its simplest terms, we have to incorporate trans activism into our women’s activism because it affects women — whether they’re transitioning or not, whether they were born near the female end of the spectrum or the male, and whether they’re transitioning away from or toward womanhood. Trans issues are women’s issues, and feminists should support protecting all people from both sex and gender discrimination.

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White House Equal Pay Task Force ReportAAUW applauds the White House’s release of a progress report detailing the activities of the president’s Equal Pay Task Force. The report was released along with a presidential proclamation to mark April 17 as Equal Pay Day, the day women’s earnings finally catch up to what men made last year. The task force was created in 2010, and their report showed the group’s achievements to date on a host of equal pay and workplace sex-based discrimination issues.

In a tough economy, technical assistance to employers and civil rights enforcement are especially critical. Right now, most women are just relieved if they have work. They’re worried they might jeopardize their jobs if they ask too many questions, making them that much more vulnerable to pay discrimination.

The task force’s progress report noted areas in which they have been actively promoting full compliance with equal pay laws, working cross-departmentally to address gender pay disparities. AAUW is pleased to see special attention paid to enforcement and litigation efforts at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), as well as increased interagency cooperation between EEOC, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), and the Department of Justice. Of particular note, OFCCP has evaluated the pay practices of more than 10,000 federal contractors, helping to ensure a fair shot at equal pay for more than 4.3 million workers.

AAUW is excited by the administration’s commitment to addressing pay discrimination. We hope they continue to use the bully pulpit to remind employers and employees of the centrality of the issue. After all, we’re all in this together – and when women aren’t paid equally, their families and entire communities suffer.

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Women make up nearly half of the U.S. labor force and play a vital role in the nation’s economy. Yet women, on average, make less on the dollar than men, and the gap is even greater for women of color and women with disabilities. Lower pay means less economic security not only for women but also for the families who depend on them.

Join us for a Twitter chat about equal pay for women on Friday, April 20, at noon EDT by following the hashtag #EqualPayChat.

You’ll be able to ask equal opportunity experts questions about the current pay gap and how to equip women with the necessary resources to make informed career decisions. During the discussion, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) will also discuss its new Equal Pay App Challenge.

Department of Labor (@USDOL) Women’s Bureau Director Sara Manzano-Díaz and Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Patricia Shiu will host this conversation along with National Equal Pay Task Force partners from the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They will also welcome special guests Lisa Maatz (@LisaMaatz), public policy and government relations director from AAUW, and Latinos in Social Media (LATISM) Vice-Chair and App Challenge judge Elianne Ramos (@ergeekgoddess).

You can send your questions before or during the event via Twitter to @USDOL using the hashtag #EqualPayChat or by e-mail before the event to womensbureaunetwork@dol.gov.

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The Obama administration will release its budget proposal for fiscal year 2013 in the next few weeks. This will be the first budget proposed since last summer’s agreement to raise the debt ceiling, which committed the federal government to reducing spending by $1 trillion over the next decade. No doubt the new budget will receive a chilly reception from Congress, which will likely attempt to cut funding for many federal agencies, particularly those charged with protecting our rights. AAUW urges the administration to defend Americans’ civil rights by fully funding government agencies that protect and enforce those rights and by opposing congressional attempts to cut funding for these important programs.

AAUW opposes all forms of discrimination and supports constitutional protection for the civil rights of all individuals. Adequate enforcement of all civil rights laws requires full funding and staffing of federal civil rights agencies, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs, and the civil rights divisions of various departments — especially the Department of Education and the Department of Justice.

These offices should be given the resources necessary to pursue their work. Some key initiatives include clarifying Title IX protections against the sexual harassment, assault, and bullying of students as well as updating affirmative action guidelines for federal contractors, developing a compensation data-collection tool to investigate wage discrimination, and adopting protections for pregnant workers and parents. In this economy, it is critical that the government make civil rights enforcement a priority because many workers are too scared to speak up for themselves in the workplace.

Americans deserve fair pay, equal access to education and employment, and vigorous protection of their civil rights. The AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund has worked for decades to combat sex discrimination in education and in the workplace. Additionally, the AAUW Action Fund has launched My Vote, a nationwide voter education and turnout campaign. Women wield great power in America, and our voices will be heard in 2012. More than ever before, women are registering to vote and casting ballots in greater numbers and with more consistency than men. We are a powerful and influential bloc of voters. The national budget should reflect women’s priorities — including full funding for civil rights enforcement.

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Twenty years ago this week, Professor Anita Hill testified about sexual harassment before the Senate Judiciary Committee during the confirmation hearings for then-Supreme Court justice nominee Clarence Thomas. Hill used to work for Thomas and felt it was her duty to share her experiences of sexual harassment in her workplace. In the end, Thomas was still appointed as a justice, and he continues to be one today.

Two decades later, it is clear that the hearings were a pivotal moment in our nation’s history.

Working women across the nation identified with what Hill said, and her testimony opened up the floodgates. In record numbers, women shared their sexual harassment stories, and in just a few years, the number of sexual harassment complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission doubled.

Hill’s testimony ultimately changed how we think about sexual harassment. Before, it was seen as a personal problem and something women should handle with a sense of humor or thick skin. Hill’s testimony helped people understand that sexual harassment is discrimination and a tactic that both men and women use to oust others from a workplace.

The disbelieving, hostile way the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee treated Hill and the subsequent confirmation of Thomas to the Supreme Court led to several women being elected to the Senate the following election year in what was dubbed the “Year of the Woman.”

Tomorrow, Saturday, October 15, Hunter College in New York City is hosting a daylong summit on workplace sexual harassment, and Hill is the keynote speaker. Panelists will host sessions such as What Happened, What Does Anita Hill Mean to You, and What Have We Learned in 20 Years and What Comes Next?

AAUW is one of the many conference co-sponsors, and we will host one of the lunchtime discussions. Ours will focus on the sexual harassment of teenagers in schools and on the streets.

For the majority of you who cannot be there, you can watch via live streaming on the conference website. If you’re on Twitter, follow @anitahill20 and view live updates by following the hashtag #AnitaHill. AAUW will cover the event on our blog early next week.

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The Supreme Court begins its 2011–12 term today, its second full one with three women justices. This term should be a busy one for the court, as it’s expected to hear a wide range of cases that set far-reaching precedents, including three cases of interest to AAUW.

The health care reform case will likely dominate because of public interest and political impact. This case, officially known as U.S. Department of Health and Human Services v. State of Florida, will examine whether the legal requirement that all Americans have health insurance is constitutional. If the court overturns this provision, it could leave the remainder of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act standing or strike down the entire act as unconstitutional. Throwing out the entire law could have serious implications for the provisions that AAUW supports, such as requiring insurers to cover preexisting conditions, ending insurers’ practice of charging women more for coverage than men, and covering preventive care without co-pays or cost sharing.

In Daniel Coleman v. Court of Appeals of Maryland, the court will determine whether state employees can sue in federal court if their employers unlawfully deny Family Medical Leave Act requests. In 2007, Maryland state employee Daniel Coleman was fired after his doctor put him on bed rest and he requested medical leave under FMLA. Coleman filed a lawsuit under the self-care provision of FMLA, which guarantees eligible employees 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave each year to recover from a serious health condition. Lower courts concluded that the State of Maryland is immune to federal lawsuits based on the 11th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits federal lawsuits against an unconsenting state unless Congress has unequivocally “abrogated” (revoked) the immunity. Coleman argues that by passing FMLA, Congress clearly intended the federal courts would be able to apply FMLA equally to both private and state employers. AAUW led the advocacy charge that resulted in the enactment of FMLA and will continue to work to ensure this act is protected from all threats.

The third case, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, will determine which employees of religious institutions will be allowed the protection of federal anti-discrimination laws when facing illegal employment discrimination. In this case, Cheryl Perich was fired from her job as a teacher from the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School when she tried to assert her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The school claimed that federal anti-discrimination laws did not apply because of the “ministerial exemption” — a court-made interpretation of the First Amendment intended to protect freedom of religion. The school’s position is that this exemption means the federal government cannot enforce anti-discrimination laws for employees of religious institutions, even those who are engaged primarily in secular duties. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the scope and application of the exception and whether religious employers should be exempt from all anti-discrimination laws. AAUW opposes all forms of discrimination and supports constitutional protection for the civil rights of all individuals.

Given the court’s recent disappointing ruling in the Wal-Mart v. Dukes case last term, AAUW will closely monitor the court’s actions and the impact of its decisions. AAUW firmly supports a fair, balanced, and independent judiciary because so many of our fundamental rights and liberties have been established and are protected by the federal courts and Supreme Court precedents. To learn more about AAUW’s work on this issue, please visit our position page.

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