On the Hill: Senate Passes UI Extension and Obstructs Paycheck Fairness

After months of back and forth, this week the Senate finally finished its work on unemployment aid, passing a five month extension of emergency unemployment benefits on Monday. Six Republicans joined the full Democratic conference to support the deal, which allows for retroactive benefits from late December when benefits first expired, and continues through May 31. Leadership in the House remains unenthusiastic about bill, with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) citing repeated concerns about the workability of the measure and calling for an agreement on Republican priorities such as a proposal to streamline job training programs.  Senator Dean Heller (R-NV), the chief GOP co-sponsor of the jobless aid measure, has been taking the lead in trying to work out deal to clear the way for House floor action on the Senate bill. Heller said he was trying to set up meetings with Speaker Boehner and other senior Republicans. The House did not take up the measure before adjourning for the two week Easter recess on Thursday, but conversations will likely continue behind the scenes to determine if a package that would be acceptable for the House leadership to take up can be crafted. Senate Democrats remain steadfast in their support for a clean extension of the aid.

Meanwhile, the House spent much of its attention this week on consideration of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) 2015 budget. The House voted 219-205 in favor of the blueprint on Thursday, which would balance the budget in a decade by cutting spending by roughly $5 trillion. Before that vote, the House rejected 163-261 an alternative offered by the Budget panel’s top Democrat, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, which relies largely on tax increases to achieve more modest deficit reduction. Democrats oppose the Ryan budget because of its cuts to domestic spending, its repeal of the health care overhaul and its tax cuts that they say would benefit the wealthy. Indeed, the Ryan plan makes drastic cuts to federal spending over the coming decade while overhauling numerous federal programs including Medicaid, Social Security, and several welfare programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps. Ryan’s proposal lacks the force of law and is sure to be ignored by the Democratic-controlled Senate, where Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) is not writing a budget.

Finally, despite a heavy push from top Democrats, this week the Senate failed to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which aims to address the national gender wage gap. Current estimates maintain that women earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn based on a comparison of the annual earnings of women working full-time jobs over the course of a year and the earnings of men working the same amount of time. The Senate measure fell six votes short of the 60 necessary to clear a procedural hurdle on Wednesday. Had it passed, the bill would have made it illegal for employers to retaliate against a worker who inquires about or discloses his or her wages or the wages of another employee in a complaint or investigation. It also would make employers liable to civil actions. Lastly, the bill would have required the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to collect pay information from employers. In keeping with the spirit of the Paycheck Fairness Act, President Obama signed two Executive Orders on pay equity this week. The first would prohibit federal contractors from retaliating against workers who discuss their salaries with one another. The other is a presidential memorandum ordering new rules for contractors to file data with the federal government showing how they compensate employees, including by sex and race.
Both the House and Senate will be in recess for the coming two weeks. They will return to Washington and be in session on April 28th.


The Supreme Court, Guns and Defining Domestic Violence

On March 26th, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that “seemingly minor acts” of domestic violence can be classified as physical force under the federal law banning gun ownership for those charged with misdemeanor domestic violence. Currently, domestic violence is defined on the federal level as committing physical violence, while definitions on the state level can be broader and vary by place. In Tennessee, where the defendant pled guilty, the definition of domestic violence is knowingly or intentionally causing bodily injury, which includes pushing, shoving, slapping and hair grabbing. However, the defendant argued that his offense was not violent enough to fall under the federal law that denied him access to guns. The Supreme Court ruled against him, stating that domestic violence normally falls under a common-law battery conviction that often broadly includes “offensive touching” such as hitting, pushing and slapping. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, on behalf of the other justices, argued that while the term “violence” connotes a great degree of force, the term domestic violence refers to acts that would not be considered “violent” in a nondomestic circumstance.

This ruling is important for the safety and security of both victims and communities due to the deadly combination of intimate partner violence and gun ownership:

Therefore, a more inclusive definition of physical force bars a greater number of abusers from gun ownership, which greatly reduces the risk of homicide in a domestic violence situation, especially of being shot by a convicted abuser.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a concurring opinion disagreeing with Justice Sotomayor’s definition of domestic violence, stating that the consideration of any “offensive touching, no matter how slight,” as domestic violence is wrong. He argues, “when everything is domestic violence, nothing is.” Furthermore, he disputes Justice Sotomayor’s use of a definition from advocacy groups because these groups have a “vested interest” in an inclusive definition to “broaden the base of individuals eligible for support services.” Justice Sotomayor defends her argument by stating that the decision in this case is about defining “physical force” rather than creating a definition of “domestic violence.”

Nevertheless, Justice Scalia’s argument that such a definition of domestic violence is too broad carries implications that could be harmful to the safety and economic security of victims. Many domestic violence organizations and agencies, including OVW, define domestic violence as physical, emotional, psychological, sexual and economic abuse. Limiting the legal definition to physical violence does not take into account the many complexities of domestic violence or the many ways abusers control survivors. Failing to recognize the full scope of abuse will perpetuate the low reporting rate, which prevents survivors from accessing necessary protection and economic justice. Furthermore, Justice Scalia’s argument that the goal of domestic violence organizations is to expand the number of individuals who are eligible for support services is not based in fact. The goal of many of these organizations is to end domestic violence forever, thereby putting themselves out of business. Unfortunately, service providers are far from reaching this goal and even lack the capacity to meet existing need: on September 17, 2013, almost 10,000 requests from domestic violence survivors were turned down because the organizations lacked the resources or money to support them. Regardless of how domestic violence is defined in this context, this expanded definition will help more survivors be safe and free from harm.


Women’s Top Five Occupations on Equal Pay Day

equal pay day 2014

In celebration of Equal Pay Day, I looked up some facts on the top women’s jobs for the last year and what women and men working full time in those jobs earned.

In 2013, the top five women’s occupations, in order, were secretary or administrative assistant, registered nurse, elementary and middle school teachers, cashiers, and nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides. These occupations account for slightly under 18% of all women working and slightly over 18% of women who work full time. The chart above shows the median annual earnings for men and women in each occupation- and men out-earn women in all five.

This is what the wage gap costs full time women workers in these occupations:

Secretaries and Administrative Assistants: Women make up 94% of secretaries and administrative assistants and earn 88% what men earn, a gap that costs women nearly $5,000 every year. If the wage gap were closed, women secretaries would be 14% more economically secure.

Registered Nurses: Ninety percent of registered nurses are women and women earn 88% of men’s wages. The gap costs women nurses approximately $7,800 annually. If women earned what men earned, it would increase their economic security 14%.

Elementary and Middle School Teachers: Women make up 81% of elementary and middle school teachers. The wage gap is smaller here- women earn 91% of what men make, but it still costs women over $4,500 per year. If the wage gap didn’t exist, women would be 9% more economically secure.

Cashiers: In 2011, women made up 74% of all cashiers, making this very close to becoming a “traditionally female” occupation (defined as those in which women make up 75% or more of the workforce), however the percentage has dropped since and is now 72%. Women cashiers make 89% of what their male counterparts earn, costing them over $2,400 annually. Without the wage gap, women cashiers would be 12% more economically secure.

Nursing, Psychiatric, and Home Health Aides: Eighty-nine percent of home health aides are women. Women earn 90% of what men earn, costing them over $2,500 every year. Women home health aides would be 11% more economically secure without the wage gap.

It is interesting to note that four of the five top women’s occupations are in traditionally female fields- nursing, teaching, etc. – and even then, women earn less than their male counterparts. The wage gap is a structural problem that requires a structural solution. Congress’s inexcusable foot dragging on this issue is costing American families their economic security and American women the pay they’ve earned.


The House Budget: Less Opportunity, More Poverty, and Magical Math

Last month, President Obama issued his proposed fiscal 2015 budget. Despite our frustration that the administration again proposed to eliminate the only program dedicated to training women for jobs and apprenticeships in high-wage, nontraditional careers, WOW found much else to like, including the President’s call for a higher minimum wage, expanding the EITC, dedicating over $100 million for a fund that would encourage states to expand family leave, and much more.

President’s budget looks even stronger this week after the release of a budget proposal from House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI).

Rep. Ryan’s budget would cut federal spending by $5 trillion over the next ten years, along with increasing defense spending and cutting tax rates for many upper-income households. The Center on budget and Policy Priorities finds, nearly 70 percent of budget cuts come from programs dedicated to helping low- and moderate-income families. .

These disproportionate cuts — which likely account for at least $3.3 trillion of the budget’s $4.8 trillion in non-defense cuts over the next decade — contrast sharply with the budget’s rhetorical commitments to helping the poor and promoting opportunity.   It calls for dramatic changes to several means-tested programs, including a proposed $125 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps. It also recommends turning SNAP into a state-run block grant program, and calls for an expansion of SNAP work and job training requirements to receive aid from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program.  The budget also undercuts individuals’ efforts to move up the economic ladders and build the skills necessary for better jobs by cutting funding for Pell grants and job training. The National Women’s Law Center underscores how these cuts are a raw deal for the millions of women and children who rely on these programs.

Unsurprisingly, the budget also calls for repealing the Affordable Care Act and cutting off 40 million Americans from health insurance. In addition to reversing the expansions through eh ACA, Ryan’s budget would set a cap on Medicaid spending and then divvy up the money proportionately among all the states– a process known as block granting. The cap on expenditures would cut funding for Medicaid and CHIP by 26% by 2024, and even more than that in following years, according to the Center on Budget.

Rep. Ryan justifies these cuts by citing a debunked report claiming these programs are ineffective.

On the tax side, one of the cornerstones of Ryan’s plan is to hold the budget revenue-neutral, despite his calls to cut taxes by nearly $5 trillion over ten years through reductions in tax rates for corporations and the highest-income households. Still, the budget does not identify a single deduction, exemption or loophole that it would close to offset these tax cuts.  To keep the revenue neutral promise, Ryan relies on some disputed budget math. Known as dynamic scoring, Ryan assumes that his budget’s significant tax cuts for corporations and high-income households will incite significant economic growth, and in turn, sufficient additional revenue. Problematically, the consensus among economic projections is that lowering tax rates so significantly on those most able to pay will simply, unsurprisingly, decrease revenue, necessitating additional borrowing or funding cuts for critical investments in our families and economy.

Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget won’t pass.  Still, the budget warrants a close examination, because it is a strong predictor of the budget Rep. Ryan and his Republican colleagues would enact if they controlled the Congressional purse strings.  Moreover, after Rep. Dave Camp’s (R-MI) retirement, Rep. Ryan may become the next chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, an even more important seat for guiding his party and the House’s tax and budget plans.

Ryan’s budget may just be the same recycled proposals of previous years, but sadly, they also don’t seem to be going anywhere.


On the Hill: The House Budget

Congress was in session this week with much fanfare surrounding the release and committee consideration of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) fiscal 2015 budget blueprint. The plan is largely symbolic, as Congress already set spending levels for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 in the January budget agreement. Ryan’s blueprint has no chance of being taken up by the Senate but largely reflects the Republican party’s platform for how they would govern should they take back control of the Senate after this year’s election  and the White House in 2016. The plan makes drastic cuts to federal spending over the coming decade, and overhauls key federal programs.  The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) in a forthcoming report estimates that some 69 percent of the cuts would come from programs that serve people of limited means.  These disproportionate cuts — which likely account for at least $3.3 trillion of the budget’s $4.8 trillion in non-defense cuts over the next decade — contrast sharply with the budget’s rhetoric about helping the poor and promoting opportunity.  Of its many proposals, the plan would repeal the Affordable Care Act, and change Medicaid into a block grant program. It also calls for dramatic changes to several welfare programs, including a proposed $125 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps. It also recommends turning SNAP into a state-run block grant program, and calls for an expansion of SNAP work and job training requirements to receive aid from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program. Democrats have raised strong objections to many proposals in Ryan’s plan, which tracks closely to many of his previous budget blueprints.  The budget was approved on a 22-16 voted by the Budget Committee on April 2nd,  after debating for nearly 10 hours Wednesday. Republicans defeated 24 Democratic amendments aimed at restoring funding for domestic programs and endorsing immigration, minimum wage and unemployment insurance proposals.  The bill will be on the House floor next week.

The Senate made progress this week on a bipartisan five-month extension of jobless aid, voting 61-35 to invoke cloture and move forward on the measure Thursday and clearing the path for passage on Monday. It remains unclear whether the House of Representatives will take up the bill, with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and many in his caucus continuing to portray the extension as unworkable after a three-month break in such benefits. While that is the dominant view among the House GOP conference, seven Republicans did send a letter to Speaker Boehner this week urging him to bring something to the floor. For some Republicans, the Senate measure presents an enticing vehicle for several stalled proposals to cut taxes, curb regulations and undo mandates under the health care overhaul. If House leadership decides to attach such provisions, they will have to weigh how far they can go in pushing Democrats to accept the package before they invite criticism that they are obstructing the bill. Democrats made clear Thursday they would press for quick House floor action on the Senate package, without changes. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)said he had no plans to open talks with House Republicans to tweak the package.

Backers of an increase in the minimum wage continued to step up the pressure this week, appealing to business leaders to offer their employees a pay boost even if Congress fails to enact legislation to do so. The timing for Senate consideration of a proposal by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 also appears to be in flux, with action now likely in late April or May. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada signaled his desire to take up Harkin’s proposal, but was weighing whether to delay a cloture vote on the motion to proceed to the Harkin bill until after the two-week April recess. A delay in floor action on Harkin’s bill would give more time for negotiations on potential compromise plans, which are being discussed behind the scenes among other lawmakers.

Both the House and Senate will be in session next week.


Ivory Towers and Low-Wage Labor

When we consider low-wage jobs and working women struggling to make ends meet, we likely think of retail, food service, and hospitality industries where most low-wage work is found.  But many other sectors also rely on the low-wage labor of women. For example, though perhaps surprisingly, college campuses and the trend towards adjunct faculty pose a growing risk to women’s and families’ economic security.

An estimated 75% of teaching positions are filled by adjunct, sometimes called contingent, professors. Full-time adjuncts cobble together a schedule of several courses at area universities, for which they are compensated on a course-by-course basis: in 2013, an average $2,987 per course. Compared to tenure-track professors who average $66,000 salary plus a benefits package, the average adjunct earns $21,600 and rarely receives employment-based benefits. Their incomes are far less than what WOW calculates workers in much of the US need to cover basic cost of living expenses.  Even two adjuncts living together fall nearly $6,000 short of WOW’s measure of economic security.

Like many low-wage workers, the majority of adjuncts are not young people trying to break into the labor market. Instead, they are adults struggling to support themselves and their families. Less than 1% is younger than 25, and a majority are 46 or older.  More than half have been teaching in the same role for more than six years.  More than three-quarters want to move into secure, respectable, better-paid teaching positions but lack the opportunity to do so.

The origins of adjuncts mirror those of other traditionally poorly-paid female occupations: Before women were permitted in tenure positions, a few graduates and university wives taught part-time.  Adjuncts also included retired academics or experienced professionals who taught a course at a local university to supplement their income. Today, although more women than men gain advanced degrees, universities continue to disproportionately hire men in tenure-track positions while increasing the number of adjunct positions and filling most of these with women. Although adjuncts may have more degrees than other low-wage workers, they are among the women who fill low-wage jobs with inflexible schedules, few benefits, and minimal advancement opportunities.

Some adjuncts have improved their working conditions by unionizing, which has resulted in more benefits, pay, and opportunity to move into full-time positions. In California, where more adjuncts belong to unions, non-union adjuncts may also benefit. However, like other low-wage workers, adjuncts also need to be compensated commensurate to their labor, which includes raising the wage floor and increasing benefits. Women also need more opportunity to work in traditionally male, traditionally better-paid jobs, whether those jobs are in trades or the tenure-track.


Women in Programming: How a Sector Becomes Segregated

In 1967, computer programming was a field dominated by women — industry and advocacy groups praised the opportunities offered by a field that was essentially founded by women in the 1940’s. Not fifty years later, women have been replaced. Women now comprise just 18% of computer science undergraduate majors, down from 37% in 1985. Men dominate the workforce and leadership in the tech industry, and critics claim it is home to widespread and “egregious misogyny and patriarchy.”

The masculinization of the computer industry had already begun in 1967, gender researchers at Stanford University highlight. Although software had initially been seen as the less-important end of computing (men worked in hardware, viewed as more demanding), employers increasingly hired men as it became apparent that software programming was mentally strenuous. At the time, the demand for programmers was so great that employers continued to hire women. As demand tapered off, formal qualifications increased, and men became more interested in these jobs and their rising salaries, employers found it easy to replace women. Men benefitted from taking aptitude tests that were only circulated through masculine social networks and were calibrated to favor male applicants.

Today, Unequal Pay

Going back to 1967, when the outlook for women in computing was bright and relatively new laws like the Equal Pay Act (1963) and Title VII (1964) promised to protect women from discrimination in hiring and compensation, the United States made progress towards realizing “equal pay for equal work.” But for women in computing 40 year later, neither pay nor work is equal. The few women who do make it into the occupation described by the BLS as “software developers, applications and systems software” take home an average of 86.4% as much as their male colleagues, a difference of about $218 each week.  The annual pay discrepancy adds up to $11,336.

Despite this pay gap, software remains economically advantageous for women since female software developers out-earn females in all 20 occupations where the greatest numbers of women work.  The share of women working in these 20 occupations combined amounts to 42.4% of full-time women, compared to 0.4% of full-time women in software development.

Current Action

Considering the research on this winnowing of women from economics, computer programming and math fields, in a recent opinion piece for the Washington Post, Catherine Rampell points out that women may be hounded out of male-dominated majors such as computer science due to hostility toward female students or the lack of female faculty members. Maria Klawe of Harvey Mudd adds that self-selection due to stereotypes of the tech industry also play a part in driving women from the field before they even begin their studies.

Rampell reviews new research from Peter Arcidiacono and Claudia Goldin, at Duke and Harvard respectively, which contends that even after women have started studying STEM fields at the university-level, they leave due to a sense of incompetency induced by lower grades in STEM classes than humanities classes. Although female students outperform their male counterparts throughout elementary and secondary school, when they confront their first collegiate chemistry or economics class which traditionally grades on a harder curve, they may feel more unsuccessful than men who perform comparably.

Despite all these obstacles, women who do successfully make it into computer programming and STEM fields benefit from upward mobility and decent wages, and getting more women into these technical careers continues to be a focus of several overlapping, intersecting, multi-pronged initiatives. An event last Thursday hosted by the New America Foundation examined strategies for combating the depletion of women from STEM fields that occurs throughout education.

We hope our partners follow research and innovative programming on this issue, as we all work to support women’s access to non-traditional careers and equitable pay for those working in all occupations, and especially, higher-wage jobs in STEM and the trades.


On the Hill: UI Extension and Minimum Wage Compromise?

The Senate easily cleared a 60-vote threshold on Thursday to advance a bipartisan extension of emergency unemployment insurance benefits.  With backing from Republicans, the Senate voted 65-34 to end a filibuster against bringing the bill up for debate. It’ll still face the likelihood of another filibuster before final passage, expected next week. Ten Republicans voted with Democrats to advance the bill: Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Dan Coats of Indiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Dean Heller of Nevada, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mark S. Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania.  The vote comes 89 days after benefits expired late last year, and since then over two million Americans have been cut off from this critical assistance. House Republican leaders, unfortunately, remain steadfast in their opposition to the Senate bill.

Senate Democrats continue to map out their legislative agenda for the coming months. In early April, they will likely focus on raising the minimum wage and on ensuring equal pay for women. Both measures will likely fall short of the necessary voters but backers hope to draw attention to their importance. Another measure that’s seen as a compliment to efforts to raise the minimum wage is a proposal to increase the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit for childless workers to about $1,400 from $487 currently, and was introduced this week by Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington. In keeping with provisions included in the Obama administration’s 2015 budget proposal, Murray’s “21st Century Worker Tax Cut Act” would lower the childless worker eligibility age for the credit from 25 to 21. Murray’s plan would also create a new tax deduction for low-to-middle income families with two incomes and at least one child, allowing a 20 percent deduction on the secondary earner’s income. This would also help increase EITC benefits by reducing earned income for purposes of calculating the credit.

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) said on Thursday that she hopes to seize momentum from a bipartisan Senate accord on jobless aid to press for a similar compromise on a more modest increase in the minimum wage. The push for a possible bipartisan minimum wage alternative comes as both parties hunkered down on opposite sides of a proposal (S. 1737) sponsored by Tom Harkin of Iowa to raise the hourly minimum wage by $7.25 to $10.10 in three steps over two years.

Both the House and Senate will be in session next week.


On the Hill: Prospects for EUC Renewal

Despite last week’s announcement of a bipartisan Senate proposal to extend unemployment benefits, Congress continues to grapple with the issue of extending jobless aid. The Senate compromise announced last week would extend unemployment benefits for five months that would be paid for by so-called “pension smoothing” provisions from the 2012 highway bill and by extending customs user fees through 2024. The compromise also would make unemployment compensation retroactive for workers who lost benefits on Dec. 28, 2013 when the jobless aid expired. Opponents of the proposal are taking issue with that provision, alleging it makes implementation unworkable, an assertion supporters strongly dispute. House Speaker John Boehner cited a letter from the National Association of State Workforce Agencies which warned that the retroactive legislation would be hard to implement, particularly while complying with new requirements, including means-testing so that million-dollar earners do not get checks, in the bill. Most states have warned it would take one to three months to implement the legislation, the association said. Proponents of extending jobless benefits defended the bipartisan proposal, including Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Dean Heller (R-NV), who pointed to the fact that Congress has passed retroactive benefits several times before without issue, and argue claims otherwise are just another excuse to deny the extension. The Senate is expected vote on the bill as soon as next week.

Republicans in Congress are unhappy with governors of six states—New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Montana, and Oregon–who have taken measures to protect more than a combined $800 million in annual Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for program participants in their states. Their move was a result of the recently passed farm bill which included $8 billion in cuts to the SNAP program over the next decade, and also reduced the ability of states to boost an individual’s benefits, requiring that an individual receive at least $20 or more in state Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) aid, before that individual’s SNAP benefits are automatically increased. In an effort to avoid the cuts, the six governors have directed their states to increase LIHEAP contributions, effectively nullifying the farm bills’ reductions and ensuring households maintain access to SNAP benefits. With more states expected to follow suit, the move has provoked a backlash from Congressional supporters of the SNAP cuts, who are threatening to attempt pass legislation to prevent such tweaks by the states or overhaul the food stamp program entirely.

Both chambers of Congress will be in session next week.


Introduction of the Fair Employment Protection Act

The Fair Employment Protection Act is one of the few aptly-named bills.  Introduced yesterday by a coalition led by Senators Tammy Baldwin (WI) and Tom Harkin (IA), in the House by Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and George Miller (D-CA), it protects workers who are harassed by a supervisor, restoring the definition of supervisor to mean anyone who can control daily activities or take tangible (i.e. anything that affects the employee’s earnings) action against the employee.  Meanwhile, it protects employers who act to prevent and stop reported harassment.

While this seems perfectly sensible, the Supreme Court decided in Vance v. Ball State University that the university was not liable for the Title VII harassment claim because the claimant was harassed by someone who oversaw her daily activities, but was not authorized to hire, fire, promote, demote, or reassign employees.  In the dissenting opinion, Justice Ginsburg highlighted the fact that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (created to offer guidance on Title VII) had included those who direct work activities as supervisors.  She also argued against the majority opinion that stated that the Ellerth precedent did not make that distinction, writing that the Faragher and Ellerth precedents had included people who oversee daily activity as supervisors.

The Fair Employment Protection Act would restore the fairness that the June 2013 decision gutted.  The scale of this issue is significant: more than 27,500 people filed charges of gender-based workplace discrimination in 2013. Passing the act would strengthen recourse against workplace discrimination for these (and those subject to other forms of discrimination) by people with authority over them, even when that authority does not include terminating employment.

WOW and several other partner organizations support this Act and other types of workplace protections which improve working conditions for everyone.  Better jobs and gender equity depend on people being able to work without discrimination or harassment, particularly by their supervisors.  The advance of this bill in Congress will mean that workplaces throughout the country will more fully sustain American values of inclusiveness and respect for all people.

- by Mara Furlong, WOW’s Family Economic Security Program Intern