Paid Sick Leave Bill Introduced in Pittsburgh Today

Pittsburgh City Council member Corey O’Connor introduced an ordinance that mandates some employers provide paid sick days for certain employees today. The number of paid sick days would depend on the number of hours an employee worked within a given week, with a cap of either 72 or 40 hours per year, depending on the size of the employer. Thirty hours of work would accrue one hour of paid sick time.   From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Mr. O’Connor said the law would prevent workers from having to choose between losing a day’s pay or coming to work sick. According to a draft of the ordinance, about 40 percent of Pittsburgh’s private sector workers and 77 percent of service workers have no paid sick time. The National Partnership for Women and Families, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, estimates that 43 million people nationwide have no paid sick time. “I don’t want somebody cooking who shouldn’t be at work that day,” Mr. O’Connor said. It also would prevent employees from having to lose wages to stay home to take care of a sick child or another family member.   Approximately 50,000 working Pittsburghers do not have access to a paid sick day. The ordinance is supported by Pittsburgh for Paid Sick Days, a coalition of faith-based organizations, women’s rights groups, organized labor and community members. Women’s Law Project is proud to be a member of this effort. The introduction of a paid sick leave ordinance in Pittsburgh is part of a wave of similar actions in cities across the country. Philadelphia passed a paid sick leave ordinance in February. Women’s Law Project Staff Attorney Amal Bass testified about the disproportionate impact having no access to paid sick days has on working women at a hearing on the issue in Philadelphia.   From our testimony: At the WLP, a large portion of our work involves efforts to improve the health, safety, and economic security of women. We have seen how the absence of paid leave exacerbates the work-family imbalance that women bear disproportionately as the primary caregivers of their families. A paid leave ordinance like the one we are discussing today would alleviate many of the burdens on these caregivers. It would protect the health of women and their families, address public health concerns, and promote efficiency and stability for the city’s businesses. The battle for paid sick days in Pittsburgh will be an interesting one. As Philadelphia progressed toward passing its ordinance, the state Legislature responded by introducing what’s known as a pre-emption bill which, if passed, would prevent other cities from passing similar ordinances. After Philadelphia passed paid sick days, the state’s...

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WLP’s Terry Fromson Discusses Women & the Minimum Wage

Women’s Law Project Managing Attorney Terry L. Fromson recently met with Pennsylvania Senator Rob Teplitz to discuss the disproportionate impact of Pennsylvania’s low minimum wage on women workers. “In Pennsylvania, the minimum wage workforce is three-quarters women,” says Terry L. Fromson, managing attorney of Women’s Law Project. “They are living on $7.25 an hour, the lowest possible minimum wage in the country. A mother in Pennsylvania with two women is living on poverty wages. Her take-home pay is less than the U.S. poverty threshold.” Fromson met with Senator Teplitz as part of the “10 Days for $10.10” Campaign. Last year, Fromson testified about the importance of raising the minimum wage before the Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee. In addition to being the majority of workers earning minimum wage, women are also nearly three-quarters of Pennsylvania’s tipped workers. Pennsylvania’s minimum tipped wage is $2.83 per hour, a rate unchanged since 1998. It’s little wonder that 18 percent of Pennsylvania’s female tipped workers live in poverty, more than double the rate for working women overall. Almost one-quarter of female servers and bartenders in Pennsylvania live in poverty. There’s another reason to be concerned about low tipped minimum wage: women working for tips may be more vulnerable to sexual harassment. A recent study from Restaurant Opportunities Centers United found that female tipped workers in states with a $2.13 tipped minimum wage are more likely to experience sexual harassment than their counterparts in states where employers are required to pay the regular minimum wage before tips. As founding members of the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health, the Women’s Law Project supports three minimum wage bills currently under consideration by the Pennsylvania Legislature: Senator Tartaglione’s SB 195 and SB 196, and Representative Patty Kim’s HB 250. Click here to learn more about the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health, a statewide group of organizations advocating for evidence-based policy solutions to real problems faced by Pennsylvania women. A rally advocating for Pennsylvania to raise the minimum wage will be held on the front steps of the Capitol in Harrisburg this Thursday, July 2, at 11AM. Find out more about the rally here. Stay up to date on this topic and other policy related to the status of women and girls in Pennsylvania by following us on twitter and tumblr and liking us...

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WLP on the Radio Discussing Pregnant Workers’ Rights

On Wednesday, WLP staff attorney Tara Pfeifer talked with WITF Smart Talk’s Scott LaMar about the rights of pregnant workers. The rights of pregnant workers is at a tipping point, especially since the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion in the landmark pregnancy discrimination case Peggy Young v. UPS back in March. “What the decision means is an [affirmation] of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, an act passed way back in 1978, that was designed specifically to eradicate discrimination against pregnant workers,” Pfeifer told LaMar. “As that particular law has played out in court decisions over the last few decades, it’s not being consistently applied. Employers such as UPS in the Young case, had policies they identified as “pregnancy-blind,” but in reality, what it was doing was shutting out pregnant women exclusively for certain accommodations that other workers, as you identify, even ones that were convicted of DUI, were given routinely.” The Young decision, Pfeifer explains, lands in the middle ground. It is a victory for pregnant workers, but also underscores the need for additional protections, and the need to clarify the requirements around providing temporary, reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. One helpful fix: Passing a state-level law requiring reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. Currently, the Pennsylvania Legislature is considering the Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PPWFA). Sponsored by Sen. Matt Smith (D-Washington/Allegheny), the PPWFA would require covered employers to make reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions unless it poses an undue hardship on the employer. It is part of a legislative package of bills to improve women’s health called the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health. There is also a forthcoming companion bill in the House, sponsored by Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland) and Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia). Women are the primary breadwinners in 40 percent of modern families. No woman should have to worry that she could be forced off the job if she gets pregnant, and lose her paycheck and health care at the very moment her family needs her most. So far, fourteen states and several cities have passed laws requiring some employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers—including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. That leaves an overwhelming number of Pennsylvania women with less protections, simply because of their zip code. Listen to the full interview Smart Talk: What Rights do Pregnant Workers...

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Report: Why We Need to Raise the Minimum Wage in PA

As the Pennsylvania Legislature considers bills to raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $10.10, a new report breaks down the big-picture and local benefits of hiking the minimum wage. Currently, minimum wage in Pennsylvania is $7.25, the lowest amount allowed by federal law since 2009. HB 250 (sponsored by Rep. Patty Kim) and SB 195/196 (sponsored by Sen. Christine Tartaglione) would raise the minimum wage to $10.10. Kim’s bill would raise the tipped minimum wage to 75% of that rate; Sen. Tartaglione’s SB 196 would raise the tipped minimum wage to 70% of the minimum wage. Governor Wolf has stated that he supports the effort. Boosting the minimum wage to $10.10 would raise the wages of 1.2 million workers and create 6,000 new jobs, according to a new Policy Watch report from the Keystone Research Center. The report also breaks down the impact of a raised minimum wage by county. From the report: When a significant number of jobs in Pennsylvania don’t pay enough for our neighbors to afford the basics – things like food, car repairs and eye glasses – the local economy suffers. For many in our communities wages are so low that they are forced, even while working, to rely on the local food bank to help make ends meet. Policies to raise the wage and benefits floor can help restore spending on the basics and, in the process, boost the local economy. Notably, in the Western Pennsylvania counties of Mercer, Armstrong and Indiana, a $10.10 minimum wage would raise the wages of workers by 30% or more. Additional highlights from the report: *The majority of workers in Pennsylvania that would get a raise as a result of a statewide minimum wage increase are adults (87%) working full-time (50.3%). *Philadelphia and Allegheny counties have the largest number of workers that would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour at 135,640 and 113,852 respectively. *In 46 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, at least one in four workers would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. One the reasons so many adults would benefit from a minimum wage increase is that on average, from 1969 to 2015, the purchasing power of the minimum wage has fallen by 0.4% a year. As corporate lobbying has successfully suppressed the wage floor, the purchasing power of laborers working full-time has plummeted. After adjusting for inflation the hourly earnings of the bottom fifth of workers in Pennsylvania are lower today than they were in 1979. To attempt to correct that fundamental imbalance, 29 states have already raised minimum wage above the federal minimum of $7.25. Pennsylvania is one...

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WLP of Western PA Joins the Fight for $15

Our fight for health and economic security of Pennsylvania families is usually waged behind closed doors, in offices and courtrooms. But yesterday, hundreds of low-income workers and advocates took that fight to the streets by calling for $15 minimum wage and union protections. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: More than 1,500 workers, students and local activists in Oakland joined a nationwide day of protests Wednesday that organizers said hit 236 cities as low-wage workers walked off their jobs to call for higher wages. The Oakland march was more than three blocks long on Forbes Avenue, which was closed for the event, backing up rush-hour traffic. “We advocate for low-income Pennsylvanians every day,” says Sue Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney at Women’s Law Project of Pittsburgh. “I can’t tell you how energizing it was to stand alongside people coming together in the streets to call for the simple right to support themselves. I heard story after story of people working full-time and still unable to support their families.” A recent study revealed that when corporations are able to under-pay their workers, taxpayers get stuck with the bill. Critics of citizens relying on public assistance may sneer for them to ‘get a job,’ but the fact is that most Americans on public assistance alreadyhave a job. Families in which at least one member is working now make up the vast majority of those enrolled in major public-assistance programs like Medicaid and food stamps.The Fight for 15 movement, which began in 2012 when fast-food workers in Chicago and New York City protested their inability to live on minimum wage, also came to Philadelphia this week. “For more than two years, fast-food workers have been striking to sound the alarm about how wealthy companies are profiting by paying their employees wages that are too low to survive on,” Devan Spear, a University of Pennsylvania student, wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Washington Post called it a “hidden cost” of low minimum wage. Taxpayers are effectively subsidizing corporations to the tune of $153 billion a year. Two bills addressing minimum wage will be introduced within the Agenda for Women’s Health. The Agenda for Women’s Health is a legislative package of bill designed to address real problems faced by real Pennsylvanians with evidence-based policy solutions. The Agenda is supported by the pro-choice, bipartisan Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania Legislature. HB 250 (sponsored by Rep. Patty Kim) and SB 195/196 (sponsored by Sen. Christine Tartaglione) would raise the minimum wage to $10.10. Kim’s bill would raise the tipped minimum wage to 75% of that rate; Sen. Tartaglione’s SB 196 would raise the tipped minimum wage to 70% of the minimum wage....

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WLP Joins Rally for the Agenda for Women’s Health

On Monday, a sea of pink flooded the Capitol for Planned Parenthood’s Day of Action. Women’s Law Project was there to join constituents in asking Pennsylvania lawmakers to support the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health. The Agenda is a legislative package of bills designed to promote and protect the health and economic security of women in Pennsylvania. Agenda bills are sponsored and supported by members of the Women’s Health Caucus, a bipartisan, pro-choice caucus of the Pennsylvania Legislature. Since the first wave of Agenda bills was introduced last session, more than a dozen bills have been introduced, and three have successfully passed into law. We were thrilled to join young women and men from all over the state, many who were visiting the Capitol for the first time, to express their support for the Agenda and concern that too often in Pennsylvania politics, “women’s health” is just code for “abortion restriction.” “What a thrill to be surrounded by hundreds of women’s health activists fighting for the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health,” says Sue Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney at Women’s Law Project in Pittsburgh. “The Capitol looked beautiful in pink.” Pennsylvania consistently ranks as one of the worst states for women’s health andeconomic security. It’s clear we need less rhetoric and more solutions to the very real problems faced by women in Pennsylvania. For example, did you know that women who work at small businesses in Pennsylvania have less protections against sexual harassment than employees at large corporations? It’s true. An Agenda bill has been proposed to close that legal loophole by extending the protections of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, which prohibits sexual discrimination, to all companies across the state. Even though pregnancy discrimination is technically illegal, in practice, some employers try to force pregnant workers off the job by refusing to provide minor temporary accommodations such as letting an employee sit on a stool or carry a bottle of water. We routinely receive phone calls from women around the state who are stuck in this situation. The Agenda’s “Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Workers” would ensure that women are not forced to choose between employment and a healthy pregnancy.Philadelphia and Pittsburgh passed limited local protections, but the rest of the women in state are left without protection. Women’s Law Project attorney Amal Bass, who testified in support of the Philadelphia ordinance, addressed the crowd on the Capitol steps. “There are many women who will never need a workplace accommodation during their pregnancies, but for individuals who do, the consequences are dire when their employer refuses to provide one,” said Bass. “Let’s make it happen. The health and economic security...

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“It Shall Be Fair”

By Sue Frietsche, WLP Senior Staff Attorney I spent Saturday, March 28 with about 40 women and a few men at a workshop called, “Women’s Rights on the Job: Building Knowledge, Power and Community.” The Women’s Law Project cosponsored this event, along with Working Women Rising—a broad and growing network of working and union women from across the Pittsburgh region—and the Women’s Caucus of Fight Back Pittsburgh, the Associate Member Program of USW Local 3657. On this cold spring afternoon, the great room at the Smithfield Church in downtown Pittsburgh was hung with bright banners saying, “$15 and a Union” and “Fight Back Pittsburgh.” The room was buzzing with workers from the restaurant, fast food, and hospital industries. It seemed that every person had a jaw-dropping story of workplace injustice to tell. Before long, a whole wall was dotted with neon orange and fuschia sticky notes cataloguing “Issues for Working Women on the Job” (aka problems), and “How We Stand Up, Fight Back” (aka solutions). I was struck by how many of the issues plastered on the church wall involved incredibly illegal conduct by employers (sexual harassment, wage theft, pregnancy discrimination, no accommodations for nursing mothers, unequal pay), and yet how few of the solutions involved calling a lawyer or filing a discrimination charge. This roomful of vibrant, engaged, angry women did not, for the most part, see the legal system as a useful source of protection or safety, or an available route to justice. Instead, they saw the legal system as an empty promise, or simply irrelevant to their struggles. What can feminist lawyers do to help make the promise of workplace equality a reality for these women? Surely, one answer is to strengthen laws. For most working parents, the need for such humane and commonsense policies such as paid sick and parental leave, a predictable schedule, affordable child care, and a living wage is nearly universal, yet these policies are simply not guaranteed by law. Incredibly, discrimination based on a worker’s sexual orientation is perfectly legal in most Pennsylvania counties. Even when a law exists to address a problem (such as sexual harassment, unequal pay, pregnancy discrimination), it is often riddled with exceptions, exclusions, and defenses that skew it against the victim. So, expanding legal protections, closing loopholes in existing laws, and eliminating provisions that give certain employers a “free pass” to discriminate or harass are bound to help. A second answer is to enforce these laws more aggressively. The chasm dividing Title VII from the restaurant worker whose boss won’t stop the customers from grabbing her is wide and deep. That chasm can only be bridged...

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PA Trying to Kill Philadelphia’s Earned Paid Sick Days

Last month, Philadelphia became the twentieth city to pass earned sick day legislation. Today, Pennsylvania lawmakers moved to undo that victory by not only banning every other municipality across the state from mandating earned paid sick leave, but adding an amendment to SB333 specifying the law, if implemented, would retroactively take effect January 1. Philadelphia passed its ordinance on February 12.   Why We Need Paid Sick Days Women’s Law Project is proud to have been a part of a broad-based coalition that advocated for the common-sense measure by submitting formal testimony to Philadelphia City Council. Earned paid sick days is, after all, a women’s issue. National Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that low-income workers, who are disproportionately women and minorities, have less access to paid sick leave than other workers. Women are disproportionately the primary caregivers in modern families and increasingly, the primary breadwinners too. In a recent survey, 47 percent of women who stayed home to care for a sick child reported losing pay, a particularly difficult burden in tough economic times. Workers without paid sick leave are less likely to receive the healthcare they need in general, according to the CDC.   More facts about earned paid sick days from the Department of Labor: * Workers who had access to paid sick days were 28 percent less likely to be injured on the job *Offering even one paid “flu day” reduced flu transmission by 25 percent *Another study concluded that there could have been 5 million fewer individuals contracting the H1N1 virus during the 2009 pandemic if workers had access to paid sick days   As earned paid sick leave gains momentum around the country, Senator Patty Murray and Representative Rosa DeLauro reintroduced the federal Healthy Families Act. “I believe that in 30 years, we will look back at this as the moment we began to turn the corner,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, “when a sleeper issue finally began to awaken and when grass roots momentum began to gather steam and roll toward a broad national consensus.” That is, except here in Pennsylvania–if this bill is allowed to pass. In the memo circulated seeking co-sponsorship for the bill, Senator John Eichelberger cites no research. He simply declared his intent to legislate “clear state preemption of local mandated leave ordinances” by arguing “uniformity is important.” Uniformity is important: The United States is the only industrialized country without mandatory paid sick days.   Don’t let Pennsylvania roll backwards on this issue as the rest of the country moves forward. Urge your representatives to say no to Senate Bill 333.   WomenVotePA is the action arm of Women’s...

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Philadelphia Passes Paid Earned Sick Days Bill

By Tara Murtha, WLP Staff We did it! Philadelphia is now the 20th  jurisdiction in the United States to guarantee certain workers the ability to earn paid sick days. The measure has been passed by City Council twice before, so it’s easy to say the third time’s a charm. But this success is, of course, is the result of a full-court press by advocates who refused to give up. As Ellen Bravo of Family Values at Work wrote earlier today, “This third time has nothing to do with charm and everything to do with smart organizing, grit, and a transformed political landscape.” From Bravo’s article: It started with the broad and diverse Philadelphia Healthy Families and Workplaces Coalition, dozens of groups concerned about ending poverty and caring for seniors, about gender and racial justice, about the well-being of kids and about economic growth. The coalition included low-wage workers looking for a small but significant reform that would let them hang on to their paychecks and their jobs when they or a loved one was ill. As restaurant worker Jason McCarthey put it, “There’s a sick worker at nearly every restaurant in this city every day. We should be able to stay home and not spread germs when we’re sick.” Women’s Law Project is proud to have been part of this effort. We gave feedback on the bill and recommendations of the Task Force. Staff attorney Amal Bass testified in City Hall to support the bill while making recommendations. From our testimony: At the WLP, a large portion of our work involves efforts to improve the health, safety, and economic security of women. We have seen how the absence of paid leave exacerbates the work-family imbalance that women bear disproportionately as the primary caregivers of their families. A paid leave ordinance like the one we are discussing today would alleviate many of the burdens on these caregivers. It would protect the health of women and their families, address public health concerns, and promote efficiency and stability for the city’s businesses. National Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that low-income workers, who are disproportionately women and minorities, have less access to paid sick leave than other workers. Women are disproportionately the primary caregivers in modern families and increasingly, the primary breadwinners, too. In a recent survey, 47 percent of women who stayed home to care for a sick child reported losing pay, a particularly difficult burden in tough economic times. In a nice bit of progressive symmetry, Philadelphia is celebrating the passing of earned paid sick days the same day that Senator Murray and Representative DeLauro plan to reintroduce the Healthy Families...

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Women’s Law Project Heads to the PA Progressive Summit

by Tara Murtha, WLP Staff As a non-profit Pennsylvania-based organization dedicated to advancing the legal status of women and girls, we are, of course, heading up to Harrisburg for the Progressive Summit today. These are a few of the panels that you will not want to miss: At 11AM on Saturday, Senior Staff Attorney Sue Frietsche—a well-recognized expert in policy and regulations relating to reproductive healthcare in Pennsylvania–will co-host a session called “Abortion in the U.S.: The Good and the Bad, and the Local.” This panel will describe the state of abortion rights after the 2014 state legislative session, including both harmful and progressive laws, implications for abortion care and law in Pennsylvania, and how the way we talk about abortion can change the way people think and legislators act. The panel will also discuss opportunities to change abortion access and the culture around abortion in your local community, regardless of the politics in Harrisburg. Frietsche is co-hosting the panel with Jordan Goldberg, Senior Counsel for the National Institute for Reproductive Health; Sari Stevens, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood PA Advocates; and Ravina Daphtary, Senior State Strategies Manager at All Above All. Right after that session, we’re heading over to “The Agenda for Women’s Health: Where This Groundbreaking Package of Bills is Heading in 2015.” The Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health is a bipartisan, pro-choice package of bills that is changing the conversation around reproductive healthcare in the Capitol and the public sphere. Since it was introduced last legislative session, Pennsylvania has been lauded as a model for developing proactive legislation to protect women’s reproductive freedom and economic security amid unprecedented anti-choice legislative attacks. With a pro-women’s health governor at the helm, will we see the attacks on reproductive health diminish and efforts to strengthen women and families flourish? This session will explore this, and other pertinent questions. At 5:00PM, Associate Director of Strategic Communications Tara Murtha will co-host Media Training 101 with Keystone Progress Communications Director John Neurohr. This session will detail what to expect when talking to reporters, strategies to keep in mind when trying to get “earned media” for your organization, and how to use all available media platforms to get your message out. Participants will learn about building relationships with journalists and outlets, about proactive and reactive media outreach and how to think about media from the perspective of a journalist, not just from your perspective. We are also looking forward to attending a slew of workshops and panels that address eliminating discrimination and securing economic prosperity in Pennsylvania. In particular, we are interested in “Building the Movement for Reproductive Justice,” co-hosted by Jasmine Burnett and Julia...

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Catch Up on News You Might Have Missed in January

by Tara Murtha, WLP Staff It’s a new dawn, a new day, a new… legislative session in Pennsylvania. There’s no time to waste: we’re working toward bills to close the loophole in equal pay law, protect equal access to reproductive healthcare services, and to end pregnancy discrimination at work … among other important things. First, the aerial view: On their first day in office, Congress introduced a 20-week abortion ban. These bans, though blocked for being unconstitutional in several states, are an increasingly popular way to chisel away women’s rights, so you will be seeing a lot more of them introduced in state legislatures anyway. Congress’ plan to vote on the federal version on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade fell apart, though, when several Republican Congresswoman withdrew their support. Instead of voting on the 20-week abortion ban, they voted on a bill that they claim stops taxpayer money from funding abortion. But in reality, the Hyde Amendment has banned the use of federal tax dollars for abortion care since 1976. What this new bill wouldactually do is codify the Hyde Amendment forever. It would also prohibit women from purchasing insurance policies through the exchange that cover abortion, with no exception for health of the pregnant woman. This is just one of at least five anti-abortion bills that have been introduced in Congress so far this year. Things are a little better than that, at least, here in Pennsylvania. Recently,Pittsburgh Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak introduced a resolution calling for paid parental leave for some city workers. WLP attorney Amal Bass testified at Philadelphia’s third hearing on earned paid sick daylegislation, and many advocates are saying that the third time will be a charm. In response to Philadelphia’s progress, though, some state lawmakers are rushing to pass a pre-emption bill that would “bigfoot” Philadelphia’s legislation. On the equal-pay front, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research issued a report that revealed poverty could be slashed in half if women earned equal pay for equal work. The Women’s Law Project is proud to be on the steering committee for the Equal Pay Today campaign, a unique partnership of 17 organizations working together to eliminate the wage gap. You can sign on to the Equal Pay campaign here. Last year, Women’s Law Project senior staff attorney Sue Friestche testified at the first hearing held in Pennsylvania before a state legislative standing committee on the subject of equal pay in 50 years. Keep an eye out for more information on the effort to progress toward equal pay in PA, there’s going to be a lot happening there. Congratulations are in order for our friends at...

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Pittsburgh Introduces Paid Family Leave Bill

Having a child is the single most expensive health event faced by young families. In fact, thirteen percent of families with a new infant become poor within a month, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families. Yet, the United States remains one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave to new parents. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), adopted 20 years ago, enables some parents to take up to 12 unpaid weeks to care for a new baby. Only 40% of the workforce is eligible for FMLA, though, and because the leave is unpaid, many eligible families simply can’t afford to use it. “Most families cannot go for 12 weeks without getting paid, and imagine how much more compelling that is when it’s not just you and your husband, but you have a new baby as well,” Sue Frietsche, senior staff attorney for Women’s Law Project, told Pittsburgh’s NPR station WESA90.5 FM. “That is exactly the wrong time to go without a paycheck.” To that end, Pittsburgh Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak introduced legislation yesterday calling for at least six weeks of paid leave for certain city employees. The legislation covers parents of any gender, and to parents adopting or fostering children. From WESA’s report: While those opposed to paid family leave argue that it’s too expensive, Tara Simmons, Vice President of the Women and Girls Foundation, said the country is already paying for it every time an employee quits a job. “The Society for Human Resources Management has quantified that every time a business replaces a salaried employee, it could six to nine months’ salary on average” Simmons said. Rudiak highlighted studies showing that paid parental leave helps reduce infant mortality and shorten hospital stays as well as leading to higher IQs and educational attainment. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto supports the bill, which would apply to the city’s 430 nonunion employees. It’s a start. Councilwoman Rudiak hopes the bill will encourage private employers to adopt similar policies, and her proposal comes at a time when the issue has momentum. President Obama called for paid family leave during the last State of the Union address. “It’s time we stop treating child care as a side issue, or a women’s issue,” he said, “and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.” So far, 16 other cities and three states have passed similar...

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Class Action Lawsuit Filed over Pennsylvania Medicaid Cuts

By Tara Murtha, WomenVote PA, WLP Staff – Two big problems with Pennsylvania Medicaid emerged yesterday [December 22]. The problems aren’t with Medicaid per se, but with the chaos-riddled transition from traditional Medicaid to Governor Corbett’s controversial, non-expansion alternative. To further complicate matters, Governor-Elect Tom Wolf, who promised to expand Medicaid as intended under the Affordable Care Act, takes office next month, and benefit changes are scheduled to take place January 1. Under the Affordable Care Act, states are encouraged to expand access to Medicaid coverage, with the federal government picking up the tab through 2016 and then paying no less than 90 percent on a permanent basis. The background: Ever since the Supreme Court decided that states can refuse to expand Medicaid, the situation here in Pennsylvania been a saga fueled by partisan politics–at the expense of the health and well-being of more than 500,000 low-income residents. As every state bordering Pennsylvania expanded Medicaid, Pennsylvania has become “the island of the uninsured.” In order to obtain the federal dollars without actually expanding Medicaid, the Corbett administration assembled an alternative plan called Healthy Pennsylvania, called Healthy PA for short. The plan was “met with harsh criticism by many and for good reason.” As predicted by experts and advocates all along, the federal government rejected the majority of proposals within HealthyPA, such as tethering work requirements to health benefits. The rejection shouldn’t have been a surprise to the Corbett Administration either, since some of the proposals had already been refused in other states even before Pennsylvania submitted this proposal. In August, after nearly a year of negotiation, the federal government approved a stripped-down version of HealthyPA. Then in November, Corbett became the first Pennsylvania governor in 60 years to lose re-election when people of the Commonwealth voted Tom Wolf into office. Governor-Elect Tom Wolf ran on a promise to expand traditional Medicaid. Meanwhile, 500,000 residents are still left in the gap created by Corbett’s refusal to expand last year. Now, as Governor Corbett gets ready to leave the governor’s mansion, the whole system is a mess. On December 19th, Pennlive.com reported that healthcare providers serving low-income mentally ill and drug-addicted Pennsylvanians state stopped receiving reimbursement for services because of a “glitch” in the transition process. From PennLive.com: Deb Beck, president of the Drug and Alcohol Service Providers Organization of Pennsylvania, said the problem is creating a crisis for providers, particularly small nonprofits, which are being forced to decide whether to swallow the cost of care or deny treatment. “It’s just incredible,” Beck said earlier this week. “We have families who desperately want help, kids who want help and access. This has...

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Young v. UPS Heads to SCOTUS: What You Need to Know

By Tara Murtha, WLP Staff Tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the case of Young v. United Parcel Service (UPS) to determine whether the company violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978 amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by clarifying that discrimination on the basis of sex includes discrimination “because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” Title VII applies to companies with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. Despite the PDA, many pregnant women have been fired after requesting temporary accommodations due to physical limitations from pregnancy and related conditions. This type of discrimination disproportionately affects low-income women working jobs with physical demands. Former Wal-Mart employee Heather Wiseman was fired after following her doctor’s recommendation to stay hydrated by carrying a water bottle at work. Victoria Serednyj was fired from a nursing home after her employer refused to excuse her from moving heavy objects, though her doctor advised she should avoid such exertion to reduce her risk of miscarriage. Amber Walker, a truck driver, was fired after asking someone to help her with heavy lifting during the later months of her pregnancy, even though the company provided similar assistance to other truck drivers with temporary physical limitations. All of these women challenged their terminations in court, and they all lost. The woman suing UPS is an employee named Peggy Young. Young requested a temporary shift in duties due to her pregnancy, and UPS refused. Yet, the company routinely accommodated similar medically-advised requests for temporary lighter duty. Reproductive health advocates are watching the case very closely. “The case illustrates the often hostile legal and policy environment U.S. women confront on issues surrounding pregnancy,” writes Ann M. Starrs, President and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute. “Policymakers and the courts should ensure that women like Young who want to achieve a healthy pregnancy are reasonably accommodated by their employers without sacrificing their economic security.” Law professors and women’s organizations with expertise in pregnancy discrimination law, including the Women’s Law Project, have demonstrated support for Peggy Young by filing and signing on to amici curiae briefs, also known as friend-of-the-court briefs. From the amici curiae: “This case presents an issue of great significance for working women in the United States, who comprise nearly half the labor force. The vast majority of working women will become pregnant at some point during their working lives, and many of them will experience at least minor conflicts between job requirements or working conditions and the temporary, but real physical effects of pregnancy.” Meanwhile, as Young’s...

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A Road Map for Our New Governor to Improve Women’s Health and Economic Security

By Kate Michelman and Carol E. Tracy Democratic challenger Tom Wolf defied a national tide and 60 years of Pennsylvania history in defeating incumbent Republican governor Tom Corbett on November 4. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. October polls showed 61 percent of voters believed the state was on the wrong track — as did 100 percent of advocates for women’s health and economic security. It’s little wonder that Tom Wolf won the vote of women by 16 points. Read more...

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Equal Pay

In 2012, Pennsylvania women made 77 cents for every dollar men earned, for a pay gap of 23%. Women are offered fewer job opportunities, fewer promotions and lower pay than men, even when they have identical resumes. Women compose nearly 2/3 of the adult minimum wage workforce…

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Paid Sick Leave

Because women bear the brunt of caregiving responsibilities, working women are disproportionately impacted by the current lack of paid sick leave. Women are disproportionately affected by lack of paid sick leave because they are more likely than men to work part-time and to be in low-wage jobs. Without access to paid leave, working mothers are less likely to seek…

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Women Offered Lower Pay Than Men

Women are offered fewer job opportunities, fewer promotions and lower pay than men, even when they have identical resumes. Less pay for the same job: Women are paid less than men in nearly every occupation. One study found that out of 265 major occupations, men’s median salary exceeded women’s in all but one. Economists have documented the role of gender bias in employment decisions through studies that show women were offered fewer job opportunities, fewer promotions, and lower pay than men, even when they had identical resumes. To close the wage gap, we must address discrimination in pay and promotions on the same job. SOLUTIONS Take Action Find out what the gender wage gap is in your county or see map Learn about the Equal Pay Today! Campaign here Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these reports to learn more about the gender wage gap Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) Women’s Law Project (WLP) The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap (2013) American Association of University Women (AAUW) Graduating to a Pay Gap (2012) American Association of University Women (AAUW) Pay Gap in Selected STEM Occupations (2011) American Association of University Women...

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Women 2/3 of Adult Minimum Wage Workforce

Women compose nearly 2/3 of the adult minimum wage workforce, and the minimum wage is too low. Job segregation: Gender role stereotypes concentrate women in jobs such as retail sales, home health care, and child care. These jobs pay low wages and are often part-time. Women compose nearly 2/3 of the adult minimum wage workforce, and the minimum wage is too low. Jobs considered to be “women’s work” typically pay less than male-dominated jobs requiring equivalent skill and effort, and women remain under-represented in higher paying work traditionally done by men, such as construction, fire-fighting and policing. SOLUTIONS Take Action Find out what the gender wage gap is in your county or see map Learn about the Equal Pay Today! Campaign here Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these reports to learn more about the gender wage gap Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) Women’s Law Project (WLP) The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap (2013) American Association of University Women (AAUW) Graduating to a Pay Gap (2012) American Association of University Women (AAUW) Pay Gap in Selected STEM Occupations (2011) American Association of University Women...

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Women in the Dark about Pay Differences

By prohibiting employees from discussing their pay, employers keep women in the dark about pay differences, limiting their ability to negotiate for higher pay and to enforce their rights under the equal pay laws. Retaliation against workers for discussing their pay: Most employees report that they are either prohibited or actively discouraged from discussing their pay. Employers with policies preventing employees from sharing pay information keep women in the dark about pay differences, limiting their ability to negotiate for higher pay and to enforce their rights under the equal pay laws. SOLUTIONS Take Action Find out what the gender wage gap is in your county or see map Learn about the Equal Pay Today! Campaign here Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these reports to learn more about the gender wage gap Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) Women’s Law Project (WLP) The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap (2013) American Association of University Women (AAUW) Graduating to a Pay Gap (2012) American Association of University Women (AAUW) Pay Gap in Selected STEM Occupations (2011) American Association of University Women...

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Wage Theft

Women are significantly more likely than men to experience minimum wage violations. Wage theft: Being paid less than the minimum wage, being shorted hours, being forced to work off the clock, not being paid overtime, and not being paid at all are pervasive practices across many industries. Women, especially immigrant women in low-wage jobs, are often hit hardest by wage theft. According to a survey of low-wage workers in America’s three largest cities (Chicago, Los Angeles, and NYC), women were significantly more likely than men to experience minimum wage violations, and 47% of the undocumented women workers surveyed reported wage violations by their employer. Employers who fail to pay women workers the wage owed to them deny these women the fair pay they need to support themselves and their families. SOLUTIONS Take Action Find out what the gender wage gap is in your county or see map Learn about the Equal Pay Today! Campaign here Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these reports to learn more about the gender wage gap Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) Women’s Law Project (WLP) The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap (2013) American Association of University Women (AAUW) Graduating to a Pay Gap (2012) American Association of University Women (AAUW) Pay Gap in Selected STEM Occupations (2011) American Association of University Women...

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Employers Pay Women Less

Employers pay women less from the moment of hire and deny them promotions because they automatically presume women will have children and then will commit less time and dedication to their jobs. Pay reductions due to pregnancy and caregiving responsibilities: Employers pay women less due to pregnancy and caregiving responsibilities.  From the moment of hire women are paid less and denied promotions because employers automatically presume women will have children and then will commit less time and dedication to their jobs. If women do get pregnant or take on caregiving responsibilities, they sometimes lose income because of overt discrimination based on these stereotypes. They also lose pay when they are deprived of opportunities to advance to higher paid jobs or are pushed out of work altogether because employers do not accommodate needs that may arise for women as a result of pregnancy and caregiving, including through paid family leave or paid sick days, and flexible, predictable, and stable schedules. The result is that women experience diminished income throughout their working lives. SOLUTIONS Take Action Find out what the gender wage gap is in your county or see map Learn about the Equal Pay Today! Campaign here Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these reports to learn more about the gender wage gap Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) Women’s Law Project (WLP) The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap (2013) American Association of University Women (AAUW) Graduating to a Pay Gap (2012) American Association of University Women (AAUW) Pay Gap in Selected STEM Occupations (2011) American Association of University Women...

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Less Likely to Seek Medical Care

Without access to paid leave, working mothers are less likely to seek medical care for themselves or take their children for medical visits for mild illnesses. Paid Sick Leave is policy that supports working women, contributes to work and family balance, and benefits public health. Studies have found that people with paid sick days reported better health, less delayed health care, and fewer visits to the emergency room. The current lack of paid sick leave creates adverse circumstances for women’s and children’s health. First, it robs working mothers of the opportunity to have an involved role in their children’s medical care. Research suggests that children recover more quickly from illnesses when their parents care for them. Furthermore, without access to paid leave, working mothers are less likely to seek medical care for themselves or take their children for medical visits for mild illnesses. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these resources to learn more about abortion rights and women’s reproductive healthcare:Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) The Women’s Law Project...

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Women Bear the Brunt of Caregiving

Because women bear the brunt of caregiving responsibilities, working women are disproportionately impacted by the current lack of paid sick leave. The current lack of paid sick leave disproportionately impacts working women who often bear the brunt of caregiving and childrearing responsibilities. Without paid sick leave, women often have to leave their sick children, ailing partners, or elderly parents in the care of others. Additionally, women have to put off needed medical care for themselves or their family members and risk spreading illness to coworkers by going to work or by sending their children to school while sick. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these resources to learn more about abortion rights and women’s reproductive healthcare:Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) The Women’s Law Project...

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Fear of Retaliation from Their Employer

Currently, many women choose not to take paid or unpaid leave when it is available for fear of retaliation from their employer. Even when employers provide leave, paid or unpaid, many women choose not to take it because they fear retaliation from their employers if they take time off to recover from a medical condition or care for a family member. Approximately one in six employees has been or has a family member who has been penalized by an employer for taking time off to deal with an illness.   SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these resources to learn more about abortion rights and women’s reproductive healthcare:Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) The Women’s Law Project...

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Does Not Provide Leave to All Employees

The only guaranteed family leave enjoyed by Pennsylvanians is the unpaid leave required by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (1993), which does not provide leave to all employees. Pennsylvania law does not require employers to provide any paid sick leave for employees. The only guaranteed family leave enjoyed by Pennsylvanians is the unpaid leave required by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (1993), which does not provide leave to all employees. As the FMLA currently stands, it does not permit unpaid leave for medical conditions that do not fall within its definition of a “serious health condition,” leaving employees without access to leave for minor medical conditions that may still require rest and treatment such as antibiotics. Furthermore, only slightly over half of all private sector employees work for employers that meet the size criterion of the FMLA, meaning these employees are not eligible for FMLA benefits. In addition, lower-income workers are more likely to work for smaller employers without FMLA obligations. FMLA leaves many employees without unpaid leave, affecting women in particular, who are more likely than men to work part-time, and therefore are not likely to be eligible for FMLA leave. In the Pennsylvania General Assembly, legislation has been repeatedly introduced to expand the reach of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) and provide paid leave for both familial illness and domestic and sexual violence. The PA General Assembly has yet to adopt any such legislation.   SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these resources to learn more about abortion rights and women’s reproductive healthcare:Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) The Women’s Law Project...

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Women More Likely to be in Low-Wage Jobs

Women are disproportionately affected by lack of paid sick leave because they are more likely than men to work part-time and to be in low-wage jobs. The current lack of paid sick leave disproportionately affects women, who are more likely than men to work part-time, and therefore are not likely to be eligible for FMLA leave. Even with FMLA protections, however, many low-wage, part-time employees cannot afford to take unpaid leave. Low-income parents are the least likely to take unpaid leave and also the most likely to have children at risk of serious health problems. Furthermore, parents whose children have chronic health problems are less likely to have paid leave than parents with healthy children. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these resources to learn more about abortion rights and women’s reproductive healthcare:Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) The Women’s Law Project...

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Survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence

Currently, survivors of domestic and sexual violence (and family members) that work in Philadelphia have the right to unpaid leave from work. By virtue of an ordinance adopted by Philadelphia City Council, domestic violence or sexual violence survivors and their family or household members who work in Philadelphia have the right to unpaid leave from work to address medical, legal, and counseling needs resulting from domestic or sexual violence.   SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these resources to learn more about abortion rights and women’s reproductive healthcare:Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) The Women’s Law Project...

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Solutions for Paid Sick Leave

PA General Assembly should adopt paid leave legislation. PA should pass legislation to provide paid sick leave for families and leave for domestic and sexual violence victims to address the violence in their lives. This legislation should provide paid sick leave for routine illnesses, such as the common cold, thereby protecting coworkers and the public against the spread of...

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Solutions for Equal Pay

Congress should adopt The Paycheck Fairness Act. This Act would: Strengthen the protections guaranteed by the Equal Pay Act, passed in 1963. Close a loophole in defenses employers may assert for pay differences between men and women. Prohibit retaliation and strengthens penalties for equal pay violations. Authorize additional training for Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) staff. The EEOC is the government agency that enforces federal employment discrimination laws....

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Gender Wage Gap Won’t Close Before 2058

Released by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR):  Most Women Working Today Will Not See Equal Pay During their Working...

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Even Monkeys Understand Inequality

Watch this video.  Even the monkeys understand when things are not fair and equal.

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Fewer Job Opportunities

Women are offered fewer job opportunities, fewer promotions and lower pay than men, even when they have identical resumes.

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Minimum Wage Workforce

Women compose nearly 2/3 of the adult minimum wage workforce, and the minimum wage is too low Job segregation: Gender role stereotypes concentrate women in jobs such as retail sales, home health care, and child care. These jobs pay low wages and are often part-time. Women compose nearly 2/3 of the adult minimum wage workforce, and the minimum wage is too low. Jobs considered to be “women’s work” typically pay less than male-dominated jobs requiring equivalent skill and effort, and women remain under-represented in higher paying work traditionally done by men, such as construction, fire-fighting and policing....

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Join the Equal Pay Today! Campaign

Launched on the 50th Anniversary of the Equal Pay Act by national and state-based women’s rights organizations, calls for an end to the gender wage gap that persists in nearly every industry and profession in the country. This gap varies by state and city, by education level and occupation, and…

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