Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

In First, California Passes Bill Requiring Public Universities to Provide Medication Abortion on Campus

In First, California Would be First to Require Public Universities to Provide Abortion Pills

At a time when conservative states are sharply limiting abortion access, California signaled a new frontier in abortion-rights on Friday with the passage of legislation that would require all public universities in the state to provide medication abortion on campus.

The bill, which would use money raised from private donors to equip and train campus health centers, grew out of a student-led movement at the University of California, Berkeley, and it has sparked the introduction of a similar bill in Massachusetts.

Anti-abortion groups say they are likely to challenge the legislation if Gov. Gavin Newsom signs it into law. He has a month to decide. A spokesman declined to say what he will do, but last year during his campaign for governor, Mr. Newsom said he supported a similar effort.

September 17, 2019 in Abortion, Healthcare, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 29, 2019

New York Legislation Allows Domestic Violence Victims to Terminate Telephone and Cable Contracts

Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation Requiring Companies to Allow Victims of Domestic Violence to Terminate Contracts Without Penalty

Legislation Allows Victims of Domestic Violence, Who Are Under a Multi-year or Bundled Contract with a Telephone, Cable, or Satellite Company, to Terminate Their Contract Without Penalty

Builds on New York State's Nation-Leading Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation (A.5318/S.2356) requiring companies to allow victims of domestic violence, who are fleeing their batterers and have received an order of protection, to terminate their multi-year or bundled contract with a telephone or cable or satellite company at a location they have fled without penalty.

"Survivors of domestic violence should not have to handle the added stress and red tape that comes with contract termination penalties," Governor Cuomo said. "When leaving an abusive environment, a clean break is critical and in New York we will give survivors the resources they need to move onto the next chapter of their lives."

While multi-year contracts with telephone or cable companies offer consumers better price-saving options, the fees to cancel such contracts vary across providers and can be charged to victims of domestic violence who are fleeing their abusers. In many cases of domestic violence, it is necessary for victims to leave behind items of intrinsic and financial value and sever all ties with their offender. By allowing victims, who submit a written claim, to terminate their contracts at a location they have fled without penalty, we are strengthening protections for victims and providing tools to potentially ease the stress and trauma often associated with domestic violence.

August 29, 2019 in Legislation, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

New NY Domestic Violence Law Includes Economic Abuse and the Right to Vote by Mail

Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation Expanding Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed three pieces of legislation expanding protections for victims of domestic violence. These measures broaden the definition of the crime of domestic violence to include forms of economic abuse such as identity theft, grand larceny and coercion (S.2625/ A.5608); give victims the choice to vote by mail-in ballot, even if they remain within the county where they are registered to vote (S.3232-A/A.219); and allow victims to report abuse to any law enforcement agency in New York State, regardless of where the violence originally took place (S.1243/A.4467A).

 

"Domestic violence is a quiet scourge that has the potential to leave lasting trauma on victims," Governor Cuomo said. "By signing these measures into law, we will broaden the legal definition of domestic violence so more abusers are held accountable as well as empower victims to get help faster and provide them a measure of protection from their abuser when they vote."  

August 15, 2019 in Legislation, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

ABA Postpones Contentious Debate Over Affirmative Consent Law

Contentious Resolution Seeking to Redefine Consent in Sexual Assault Cases is Postponed

The ABA House of Delegates has postponed indefinitely a resolution that would call on legislatures and courts to redefine the consent standard in sexual assault cases, after contentious debate Monday at the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

 

Resolution 114 was sponsored by the Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence and Civil Rights and Social Justice Section and asked legislatures and courts “to define consent in sexual assault cases as the consent of a person who is competent to give consent to engage in a specific act of sexual penetration, oral sex, or sexual contact, to provide that consent is expressed by words or action in the context of all the circumstances, provided that nothing herein changes the Constitutionally-guaranteed presumption of innocence, or the burden of proof, which at all times remains on the prosecution to prove every element of an offense, including without limitation lack of consent, beyond a reasonable doubt.”

 

The resolution built on an earlier Resolution 115, which was adopted at the ABA Midyear Meeting in January to oppose placing upon victims of sexual assault the legal burden of demonstrating resistance to the assault.

 

The Criminal Justice Section was originally a sponsor of the resolution, but withdrew its co-sponsorship and filed the motion to postpone the resolution indefinitely.

 

Mark Schickman, chair of the Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence, spoke in support of the resolution. He said his commission first proposed the resolution at the Midyear Meeting in Las Vegas in January, but agreed to spend more time working on its language with the Criminal Justice Section. The two groups worked together on the resolution and the accompanying report over the past few months.

 

However, Schickman said, in recent weeks, criminal defense lawyers criticized the resolution, saying it attempted to eliminate defendants’ presumption of innocence in sexual assault cases and move the burden of proof to the defense.

 

The resolution was amended to address these concerns the day before the House of Delegates meeting, Schickman said.

 

“I am asking of you today that you not focus simply on the human experience that you see today, which doesn’t stop to ask for consent, which doesn’t wait to see if there is consent,” he said. “I ask you to do what is right.”

 

Neal Sonnett, a past chair of the Criminal Justice Section, told the House of Delegates that his section agreed to work with the Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence on the resolution. Even though there was some dissent, its council voted to approve and co-sponsor the resolution.

 

It wasn’t until later that Criminal Justice Section leadership realized they hadn’t paid enough attention to the “far-reaching implications of this resolution,” Sonnett said.

 

“This is a new paradigm,” he said. “This changes the law entirely with respect to sexual behavior.”

August 13, 2019 in Legislation, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Progressive Oregon Family Leave Law First in Nation to Cover Minimum-Wage Workers

Oregon Paid Leave Law is Nation's First to Fully Cover Lowest Wages

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Friday signed what advocates are calling the nation’s most progressive paid family and medical leave measure, making the state the first in the country to offer 100% wage replacement for minimum-wage workers.

 

The law, which will pay out benefits beginning in 2023, gives 12 weeks paid time off to new parents, victims of domestic violence and those who become ill or need to care for a sick family member. It also includes people who may be in the country illegally and those working part time. Residents need to work 1,000 hours a year to qualify.

 

The state joins eight others and the District of Columbia in offering paid family leave.

 

“This is one of the most inclusive and equitable paid leave laws in the country,” said Andrea Paluso, executive director of Family Forward, the advocacy group who helped craft the bill. “It’s accessible to nearly every worker and provides enough benefits so people can just focus on taking care of themselves or their families when they need to.”

 

The law allows workers to take time off not only to care for blood relatives, but also for significant others, friends and other close associates that are the “equivalent of a family relationship.”

 

Workers will also be able to take paid leave in non-consecutive increments, allowing those with chronic illnesses to take time off when needed.

August 13, 2019 in Equal Employment, Family, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 14, 2019

Kamala Harris Proposes Preclearance for State Abortion Laws Akin to Voting Rights Preclearance

Kamala Harris Has a Brilliant Idea on Abortion

We need more ideas like the one Senator Kamala Harris of California proposed last week to stop abortion laws from going into effect unless the federal government agrees they comply with Roe v. Wade.

 

This idea, known as preclearance, is widely considered the single most effective civil rights tool in American history, because it blocks bad policies before they can take root and spread harm across generations.

 

Ms. Harris’s proposal focuses on laws that harm women. But the concept ought to be extended to racial disadvantage. Every presidential candidate should offer similar proposals in areas like policing, housing, education and transportation. It’s the best way to stop discrimination.

 

Ms. Harris modeled her idea on a section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which for decades allowed the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington to prevent harmful voting laws in places with chronic discrimination. Preclearance was created to combat the pernicious methods Southern states used to stop black people from voting after the 15th Amendment prohibited the states from doing so outright.

June 14, 2019 in Abortion, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Potential Negative Effect of Salary History Bans on High-Performing Women Employees

Jeffrey Meli & James Spindler, Salary History Bans and Gender Discrimination 

A number of important jurisdictions have recently enacted salary history bans to combat the gender pay gap. This paper examines the effect of such bans by developing a novel, tractable economic model of unconscious bias in the workplace: some firms consistently but unconsciously under-evaluate the productivity of their female workers. In a Bayesian setting, a worker and his or her employer learn about worker quality over time by observing worker productivity; a worker’s salary thus conveys information about the employer’s inference of worker quality. A lateral employee market exists, and female workers who find themselves underpaid may choose to switch firms. We find that, under assumptions of non-strategic firm behavior, bans can reduce the gender wage gap, but do so at the expense of high-performing women; switching from discriminatory employers requires high-performing women to give up their history of high performance, and they may be effectively trapped at discriminatory firms. When firms are strategic (meaning they infer the reasons for employees’ switching behavior), bans do not reduce the gender wage gap; adverse selection results, which has an even more pronounced effect of trapping high-performing women by imposing greater switching costs on them. We find that a well-functioning job-switching market ameliorates unconscious bias and the gender wage gap, and that the wage gap (and the welfare of working women, particularly high-performers) is better addressed through policies that promote efficient job switching.

June 13, 2019 in Equal Employment, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

States Legislate to Expand Abortion Access

While Some States Try to Ban Abortion, These States are Expanding Access

When an abortion law makes headlines in 2019, it’s usually as a ban.

 

Aggressive abortion restrictions have passed in numerous states in recent months, with some banning the procedure at six weeks or even earlier.

 

But this week, Maine Democratic Gov. Janet Mills signed into law a bill that will actually expand abortion access in the state by allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants, not just doctors, to perform the procedure. As clinics in other states are at risk of closing, the Maine law will increase the number of clinics able to perform abortions.

 

Maine’s law is part of a bigger trend, as legislators and advocates in blue states back legislation to lift abortion restrictions. These laws are still outnumbered by anti-abortion bills, but they’re becoming more and more common — about a quarter of the provisions to expand abortion access since 2011 have passed in the past two weeks alone, according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight.

 

The states include ME, NY, IL, VT, and NV.

June 13, 2019 in Abortion, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Vermont Passes Law Preserving Right to Abortion

GOP Vermont Governor Signs Sweeping Abortion Rights Bill into Law

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) on Monday signed into law an expansive abortion rights bill that seeks to preserve a woman’s right to the procedure.

 

"Like many Vermonters, I have consistently supported a woman’s right to choose," Scott said in a statement about his decision to sign the measure.

 

"This legislation affirms what is already allowable in Vermont – protecting reproductive rights and ensuring those decisions remain between a woman and her health care provider," he added.

 

Under the measure, Vermont is required to recognize the “fundamental right of every individual to choose or refuse contraception or sterilization” as well as the “fundamental right of every individual who becomes pregnant to choose to carry a pregnancy to term, to give birth to a child, or to have an abortion.”

 

The bill states that, upon its passage, Vermont’s government would not be able to "deny or interfere with an individual’s fundamental rights to choose or refuse contraception or sterilization or to choose to carry a pregnancy to term, to give birth to a child, or to obtain an abortion."

June 12, 2019 in Abortion, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Illinois Passes Pro-Choice Abortion Legislation

Illinois Passes Sweeping Abortion Rights Legislation

Illinois passed an expansive reproductive rights bill on Friday further protecting the right to an abortion as GOP-controlled state legislatures pass abortion bans throughout the country.

 

The state Senate passed the bill 34-20 down party lines after the House passed it 64-50 on May 28. The progressive bill is meant to strengthen abortion rights in Illinois and codify the state’s current practices in case the conservative-leaning Supreme Court overturns the landmark 1973 ruling Roe v. Wade, which guarantees a person’s right to a safe and legal abortion.

 

“The Act sets forth the fundamental rights of individuals to make autonomous decisions about one’s own reproductive health, including the fundamental right to use or refuse reproductive health care,” the bill reads. It also restricts “the ability of the State to deny, interfere with, or discriminate against these fundamental rights.”

 

The bill’s passage repeals the 1975 Illinois Abortion Law and replaces it with the Reproductive Health Act, removing decades-old measures requiring spousal consent, waiting periods and criminal penalties for doctors who perform abortions, among other restrictions. Courts had already blocked the criminal penalties measure before the new legislation repealed it.

 

The legislation also has clarifying language that treats abortion as health care.

Illinois Senate Approves Sweeping Abortion Rights Bill

 A bill that establishes a “fundamental right” for women to get an abortion in Illinois cleared the state Senate late Friday night, sending the sweeping measure to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who already has signaled his support.

 

As the clock approached midnight Friday, the Senate voted 34-20 in favor of the abortion legislation, which comes amid an increased sense of urgency among advocates looking to protect abortion access as a series of states have passed laws essentially banning the practice.

Wash Post, "Not on My Watch": As Abortion Bans Multiply, Some States Move to Affirm a Woman's Right to Choose

***Illinois isn’t alone in its approach, as lawmakers in red and blue states alike begin to envision a world without Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that a woman has a constitutional right to choose whether to bear a child.

 

In Vermont, both houses of the state’s General Assembly endorsed a measure earlier this month that recognizes reproductive choice as a “fundamental right.” The state’s Republican governor, Phil Scott, has pledged not to veto the measure. Last week, lawmakers in Maine advanced legislation expanding abortion providers. Meanwhile, the majority-female Nevada Assembly approved a bill doing away with the requirement that doctors inform women of the “emotional implications” of an abortion.

 

Legislation is pending in additional Democratic-controlled states, such as Massachusetts, where the ROE Act would authorize abortion after 24 weeks in certain situations. Elsewhere, Democratic governors are promising to use their veto power to block Republican-led efforts to limit access to the procedure.

June 4, 2019 in Abortion, Healthcare, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Nevada Legislature Passes Pro-Choice Abortion Bill

Nevada State Legislature Passes Pro-Choice Abortion Bill

Bucking the antiabortion political trends in several other states, the Nevada state Assembly approved a pro-choice bill on Tuesday to remove criminal penalties for people who terminate a pregnancy without consulting a physician.

 

The Trust Nevada Women Act, which passed on a 27-13 vote, would also decriminalize other abortion-related actions, such as selling miscarriage-inducing medications. It would remove requirements that doctors tell pregnant people about the “emotional implications” of an abortion.***

 

Mississippi, Ohio, Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Utah, Louisiana and Missouri are among the other states that have approved new laws or are considering ones that significantly limit legal abortions. 

 

On the flip side, lawmakers in Illinois and Maine seek to pass legislation that would further protect access to abortion.  

May 22, 2019 in Abortion, Constitutional, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

RI House Passes Bill to Guarantee Abortion Rights

RI House Passes Bill to Guarantee Abortion Rights

State lawmakers on Thursday [March 7, 2019] approved legislation to protect the legality of abortion in Rhode Island, no matter what an increasingly conservative U.S. Supreme Court might do to the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.

 

In a major victory for abortion-rights activists, the Rhode Island House of Representatives approved the legislation by a 44-to-30 vote, over the strenuous objections of a host of antiabortion lawmakers and the Roman Catholic Church in the most Catholic state in the nation.

 

The legislation now goes to the state Senate, where its fate is uncertain and where a similar measure died in 1993 after clearing the House. That was a very different era, when Bill Clinton was president and there was nowhere near the current level of concern among advocates about the erosion of abortion rights

May 22, 2019 in Abortion, Constitutional, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Policy Changes as a Result of Women in Positions of Political Power

Valeriya Mechkova & Ruth Carlitz, Gendered Accountability: When and Why Do Women's Policy Priorities Get Implemented?  
V-Dem Working Paper 2019:88

The past two decades have seen dramatic increases in women occupying positions of political power. Such developments have been welcomed as a means of achieving better outcomes for women in their everyday lives. We interrogate this proposition, developing a "gendered accountability" framework to the delineate conditions under which female representation should have its desired effects. Our empirical analysis applies this framework to sub-Saharan Africa, home to the largest increase in women's political representation in recent years. We find that having more women in the legislature is robustly associated with reduced infant and child mortality as well as greater spending on health. The effect on infant mortality is magnified when women are more active in civil society, and constrained to countries that have gender quotas and a proportional electoral system. We do not, however, find consistent evidence that maternal mortality and access to clean water respond to female representation.

May 16, 2019 in Family, Gender, Healthcare, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

States Quickly Passing Restrictive Abortion Bans to Challenge Supreme Court Precedent Recognizing Women's Right of Bodily Autonomy

Alabama Signs Abortion Ban Into Law

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a controversial bill that bans nearly all abortions into law Wednesday evening.

 

It's considered the most restrictive abortion law in the United States. The law makes it a crime for doctors to perform abortions at any stage of a pregnancy, unless a woman's life is threatened or there is a lethal fetal anomaly.

 

Under the new law, doctors in the state face felony jail time up to 99 years if convicted. But a woman would not be held criminally liable for having an abortion.

 

The law does not take effect for several months.

Alabama, Georgia Pass Abortion Bans Aimed at Roe v. Wade

Late Tuesday night, Alabama legislators passed a bill that would outlaw abortion at any stage in a woman’s pregnancy. They’re in good company: Earlier in May, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed a law making abortion illegal after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, or roughly six weeks after conception. Ohio, Mississippi, and Kentucky have all passed similar bills this year.

 

The state legislators who are passing these bills know they will be challenged in court. They also know they will probably lose. But their sights appear to be set higher than their state jurisdictions: With a solidly conservative majority on the Supreme Court, anti-abortion advocates are eager to seed the challenge that could one day take down Roe v. Wade, the 1973 opinion that legalized abortion up to the point of fetal viability. At the very least, they hope the Supreme Court will undercut Roe and subsequent decisions that reaffirmed abortion rights, the idea being that each legal challenge makes it a little harder to obtain an abortion in the United States.

NYT, Abortion Bans: How State Laws Have Limited the Procedure This Year

Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio stopped short of outright bans, instead passing so-called heartbeat bills that effectively prohibit abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, when doctors can usually start detecting a fetal heartbeat. Utah and Arkansas voted to limit the procedure to the middle of the second trimester.

 

Most other states follow the standard set by the Supreme Court’s Roe decision in 1973, which says abortion is legal until the fetus reaches viability, usually at 24 to 28 weeks.

 

The latest bans are not yet in effect (Kentucky’s was blocked by a judge), and all are expected to face lengthy court battles — indeed, their proponents are hoping they will reach the Supreme Court.

 

New State Bans Push Abortion to the Forefront of 2020 Campaign

A new law in Alabama bans abortion from conception, except when necessary to prevent a serious health risk to the mother. and even then, access to the procedure would be hard to come by.

 

The legislation joins a string of measures in pro-life states that are clearly unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade. But the bills' backers are betting the U.S. Supreme Court's new five-justice conservative majority is ready to reverse the 46-year-old precedent.

 

Under Supreme Court precedent, states can't unduly burden—let alone ban—abortion before fetal viability (generally at 23 or 24 weeks of pregnancy.)

 

In Ohio, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood have filed suit to block that state's six-week abortion ban, which is set to go into effect in July.

 

But with Georgia's governor signing into law another six-week ban last week, abortion opponents are confident they have the high court on their side.

 

The court last affirmed abortion rights in 2016. But Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a conservative, replaced swing Justice Anthony Kennedy, which changed the calculus, according to Professor Caroline Mala Corbin of the University of Miami School of Law.

 

"The newly configured Supreme Court has given hope to many abortion opponents that they will finally have their way and the right to abortion will be eliminated as a constitutional right," Corbin told FOX 5 NY.

May 16, 2019 in Abortion, Constitutional, Legislation, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 2, 2019

House Judiciary Committee Holds First ERA Hearing in 36 Years

Congress Holds First Equal Rights Amendment Hearing in 36 Years Amid Ratification Push

A House Judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday held the first congressional hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in 36 years as supporters push for ratification.

 

ERA advocates want a time requirement to be stripped from the amendment’s language. Congress passed the ERA in 1972, but it failed to earn the backing of enough state legislatures to be ratified by a 1982 deadline.

 

The majority of those testifying Tuesday before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties argued the deadline was arbitrary and should be removed.

 

The panel heard testimony from a pair of female Democratic lawmakers backing legislation that would add language to the Constitution stating everyone is equal under the law.

 

Other witnesses included actress and advocate Patricia Arquette, as well as legal experts and a state senator involved in getting the ERA ratified in Nevada.

 

Both Nevada and Illinois have ratified the amendment in recent years. Ratification failed by one vote in Virginia earlier this year.***

 

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) also introduced a measure for a new ERA, but she and Speier have said it's a “fall back” in the case Speier’s measure falls short.

Video, ERA Hearing on CSPAN

Republicans Want to Make a Debate over Discrimination an Abortion Battle

When women’s rights activists gathered in Washington on Tuesday for the first congressional hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in 36 years, they seemed to encounter many of the same decades-old strategies that have been used to derail it. Chief among them was the idea that the proposed constitutional amendment, which would enshrine equal protections for women in law, would trigger an unfettered expansion of abortion rights on the state and federal level—an argument some ERA supporters say is intended to sow division.

 

May 2, 2019 in Abortion, Constitutional, Gender, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 15, 2019

US Senators Propose Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill, the "Be Heard Act"

Dems Unveil Anti-Workplace Harassment Bill

A group of Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday unveiled a bill aimed at strengthening protections against harassment in the workplace, including sexual harassment.

 

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Democratic Reps. Katherine Clark (Mass.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Elissa Slotkin (Mich.) and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell(Fla.) introduced the "Be HEARD Act," which stands for Bringing an End to Harassment by Enhancing Accountability and Rejecting Discrimination in the Workplace.

 

Several 2020 Democratic presidential contenders have also signed onto the legislation, including Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren(D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar(D-Minn.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), among other senators.

 

The legislation aims to eliminate the tipped minimum wage, which largely leaves service worker pay up to customers, as well as end mandatory arbitration and pre-employment nondisclosure agreements and give workers more time to report harassment, among other provisions.

Democrats' Bill to Fight Sexual Harassment, Explained

On Tuesday, Democrats in Congress will introduce legislation aimed at helping those workers. Called the Bringing an End to Harassment by Enhancing Accountability and Rejecting Discrimination (BE HEARD) in the Workplace Act, it would close loopholes in federal discrimination law that leave many domestic workers without legal protections from sexual harassment. It would authorize grants for low-income workers to help them seek legal recourse if they are harassed. And, crucially for food service workers like Tucker, it would eliminate the lower minimum wage for tipped workers, which many say makes servers vulnerable to harassment by customers.

 

“Some women did and do still think that in order to make the extra tip, they have to ignore unwanted touches and unwanted comments,” Tucker said, “and we shouldn’t have to.”

 

The legislation could face an uphill battle in a Republican-controlled Senate. But it’s an example of a larger move toward systemic changes that would go beyond deposing a few big-name men, and help the many workers in America whose harassment never makes the news.

April 15, 2019 in Equal Employment, Legislation, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Testimony Against Severe and Pervasive Standard in Proposed MN Law on Sexual Harassment

Gender Justice Executive Director Megan Peterson's Testimony for Minnesota HF 100

Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you today in support of House File 10 to clarify the definition of “sexual harassment” to lower barriers to justice for more Minnesotans and empower employers to fully extinguish sexual harassment from their workplaces.

 

As a legal organization, we have represented several victims of sexual harassment over the past nine years. We have represented both women and men. Our clients have turned to us after they failed to secure relief through their employer and found no other recourse than to seek justice through the courts. Our clients’ experiences as well as the stories of the brave women and men who have come forward as part of the #MeToo movement demonstrate that sexual harassment remains a widespread problem. It is a problem that disproportionately affects women and is even more pronounced at the intersection of gender, race, disability, and class. Sexual harassment damages its victims’ career development and future earnings. It contributes to unequal pay and status, effectively denying them an equal opportunity to succeed and provide for their families. 

 

Two out of three women in Minnesota report they have personally experienced sexual harassment, and more than a quarter of all charges filed with the EEOC include sexual harassment or discrimination claims. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. The vast majority of people who experience sexual harassment at work never take legal action. Most don’t even discuss the problem with a manager.

 

They’re right to be reluctant. Far too often, employees who speak out against workplace mistreatment report facing some kind of retaliation. Employers may dismiss or minimize the problem, or respond with outward hostility toward the victim.

 

Adding insult to injury, when survivors of sexual harassment have turned to state courts for help, their claims have too frequently been dismissed based on the federal “severe or pervasive” threshold. This legal test has never been a part of Minnesota law, and it flies in the face of common sense - reasonable people know harassment when they see it. But in just three words, the “severe or pervasive” test compromises the dignity of working people and violates our values as Minnesotans.

Click the link above for the full testimony.

February 7, 2019 in Equal Employment, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Elected Women are Majority in Nevada Legislature and Colorado House

First: Women Take the Majority in Nevada Legislature and Colorado House

On Monday, Nevada's statehouse begins its legislative session by marking a major milestone. It's the first time in our nation's history that any state legislature holds a majority of female lawmakers. Just like the country, the body is slightly more than half women.***

 

With its overall majority, Nevada is the exception. This year, 50.8 percent of state representatives and senators, combined, are women. And it's one of only two states that have a female majority in any one chamber. The other is Colorado's lower house, where there are three more women than men. A single chamber majority has happened only once before, in New Hampshire about a decade ago.

 

"Women hold fewer than 30 percent of state legislative seats across the country, fewer than 25 percent of congressional seats, so getting to 50 percent in any one place is something significant," says Kelly Dittmar, a scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. "So we still have a lot of progress left to make across the country to have women equally represented in our legislative institutions," she says.

 

In fact, in Mississippi, West Virginia, Alabama and Louisiana, women make up about 15 percent of state lawmakers.

 

Even in the "year of the woman" — as 2018 was regularly called — it's obvious that progress has been slow. In 1992, also a breakthrough year, women made up 20 percent of representation across the country. This year, as 2018 winners take office, it's 28 percent.

 

The reasons it has taken so long to reach gender parity, Dittmar says, are many. Of course, there was the formal exclusion of women from public service. For a long time, women couldn't vote or run. But then there is the informal exclusion based on gender stereotypes, including long-held beliefs that women can't lead or balance their personal and professional lives. Dittmar says those old platitudes can also create obstacles to fundraising.

 

"You have typically had men in party leadership and political leadership. Those are the people who are tapping candidates, who are recruiting candidates to run and deciding who gets on the ballot. Those recruitment networks have been, for a long time, very male-dominated."

February 5, 2019 in Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

NY Passes Law to Protect Access to Abortion Even if Roe is Overturned

New York Abortion Measure: State Moves to Protect Access to Abortion Even if Roe v. Wade is Overturned

On the 46th anniversary of Roe V. Wade, New York state passed a law to protect women's access to abortion if the historic case is overturned.

 
"Today we are taking a giant step forward in the hard-fought battle to ensure a woman's right to make her own decisions about her own personal health, including the ability to access an abortion. With the signing of this bill, we are sending a clear message that whatever happens in Washington, women in New York will always have the fundamental right to control their own body," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo after signing New York's Reproductive Health Act on Tuesday night.
 
 
Not only will the law preserve access to abortions, it also removes abortion from the state's criminal code. This would protect doctors or medical professionals who perform abortions from criminal prosecution. The law also now allows medical professionals who are not doctors to perform abortions in New York.
 
 
"The old law had criminal penalties. It was written that the doctor or professional could be held criminally liable," Cuomo said during an interview on WNYC Wednesday.
 
The bill allows women to get abortions after 24 weeks if their life or health is threatened by the pregnancy in addition to permitting women to have an abortion at any time if the fetus is not viable, according to syracuse.com.

The law also regulates abortion under public health law, rather than criminal law, and allows licensed nurse practitioners, physician assistants and licensed midwives to conduct abortions, syracuse.com reported

 

Tuesday marked the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and a new milestone for New York women. Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, signed the Reproductive Health Act into law after it passed both chambers of the state legislature earlier in the day. The bill updates New York’s abortion law, which predates Roe and regulates abortion in the state’s criminal code. “It’s bittersweet. There is a bitterness because we shouldn’t be here in the first place,” Cuomo said, according to the Albany Times-Union. “We should not have a federal government that is trying to roll back women’s rights … This administration (of President Donald Trump) defies American evolution.”

 

The RHA takes abortion out of the criminal code; the state will now regulate it as a matter of public health. It also expands the pool of medical professionals who are authorized to perform abortions and permits abortions after 24 weeks when the fetus is not viable or a woman’s health is at risk. Previously, women who needed later-term abortions to end nonviable pregnancies were forced to travel far outside the state — a financial and psychological burden. Separate from the RHA, Cuomo has pledged to amend the state constitution to include an affirmative recognition of the right to abortion, though that process will be a lengthy one. As Syracuse.com reported earlier this month, the state legislature has to approve the amendment, which would then go to voters for a referendum.

This is interesting put in historical context, as New York's criminalization of abortion passed in the mid-19th century was one of the leading restrictive laws in the country and one of the most studied.  See Tracy A. Thomas, Misappropriating Women's History in the Law and Politics of Abortion, 36 Seattle L. J. 1 (2012) (including sources cited therein).

January 23, 2019 in Abortion, Constitutional, Healthcare, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Renewed Efforts to Pass Equal Rights Amendment in Minnesota

Long Dormant, The Equal Rights Amendment has Awakened with Vigor

After decades of dormancy, the ERA soon is being considered in the Minnesota House with a majority of members in support. Senate companion bills will feature DFL and GOP co-authors, signaling a majority of the votes....

Two bills are before the state House: the Minnesota State ERA Bill, a constitutional amendment bill to embed an ERA into our state Constitution (HF13), and the Federal ERA Resolution to Congress to remove the deadline on the federal ERA (HF71).

 

The Minnesota State ERA Bill (HF13), authored by Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein, DFL-New Brighton (with a companion bill authored by Sen. Richard Cohen, DFL-St. Paul), will add a section providing for gender equality in our state Constitution.

 

The impact would be to provide a constitutional basis for claims of gender-based violence, help create more realistic legal standards for sex discrimination in the workplace, ensure that women can work safely, have reasonable accommodation and earn much-needed income for themselves and their families during pregnancy, and address unjust laws that impact men. If passed, a question would be added to the general election ballot in 2020, the 100th anniversary of women’s gaining the right to vote.

Currently, 24 states have some kind of equal rights amendment language in their state constitutions. ERAs have existed in state constitutions for over 140 years and no federal law has been overturned because of them. Other states are poised to add an ERA. In Delaware, a state ERA may finally pass this month, and, in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made an equal rights amendment a priority in his first 100 days.

 

The Federal ERA Resolution to Congress (HF71), authored by Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul (with a companion bill authored by Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul), memorializes Congress to remove the arbitrary deadline of “June 30, 1982,” from the ERA. For a federal constitutional amendment to be made part of the U.S. Constitution, three quarters (or 38) of the states must ratify it. This country is now sitting at 37 states ratified. With the tremendous success ratifying the ERA in Nevada in 2017 and Illinois in 2018, huge strides have brought the ERA to a tipping point.

January 22, 2019 in Constitutional, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)