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About the PA Agenda
The Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health is a bold, pro-choice, legislative package of bills sponsored and supported by the Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania Legislature, a bipartisan, pro-choice group of lawmakers committed to promoting evidence-based policy solutions to real problems faced by Pennsylvania women and families.
The Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health is designed to promote family-friendly working conditions, economic fairness and healthy lives. The first wave of Agenda bills was introduced in December, 2013. So far, more than a dozen bills have been introduced, and three have passed into law, including one that protects domestic violence survivors from being evicted for calling the police.
The Agenda is one of the most progressive legislative initiatives in the nation. The Women’s Health Caucus is building on those victories in the 2015-2016 session by focusing on the following bills:
Reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers
The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was enacted 36 years ago. Yet, even today, pregnancy discrimination remains a persistent and growing problem. Some employers still force women to choose between a healthy pregnancy and employment by refusing to make temporary, minor accommodations, like allowing her to sit on a stool behind a register or carry a water bottle. The Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would require covered employers to make reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.
HB 1176 – Rep. Delozier, R-Cumberland & Rep. Cohen, D-Philadelphia
SB 40 – Sen. Smith, D-Washington/Allegheny
Sanitary conditions for nursing mothers
Study after study shows that both mothers and children benefit from breastfeeding. For most babies, breast milk helps fight against disease. For mothers, breastfeeding is linked to a lower risk of several health problems. Nursing women shouldn’t be sent to a janitor’s closet or bathroom to pump milk. The Workplace Accommodations for Nursing Mothers Act would help salaried women not covered by the Affordable Care Act and require their employers to provide break time and a private, sanitary space to express breast milk.
HB 1100 – Rep. Daley, D-Montgomery & Rep. D. Parker, R-Montgomery
SB TBA – Sen. McIlhinney, R-Bucks
More than 50 years after equal pay became the law of the land, even the most conservative data repeatedly confirm that women working fulltime, year-round jobs are paid less than their male counterparts, with women of color faring the worst. In recent years, progress toward equal pay has stalled. A recent report revealed that, at the current pace, women in Pennsylvania will not earn equal pay for equal work until 2072. The Equal Pay Act will help close the gender wage gap by prohibiting wage secrecy and closing loopholes so that employers cannot get away with paying men more by, among other things, blaming “market forces” or workers’ previous salaries.
HB 1160 – Rep. Sims, D-Philadelphia & Rep. Davis, D-Bucks
SB 303 – Sen. Teplitz, D-Dauphin/Perry & Sen. Williams, D-Delaware/Philadelphia
Patient Trust Act
Are you sure your doctor’s advice is based on scientific consensus and his or her clinical experience–and not a script from a politician in Harrisburg? Thirty-five states including Pennsylvania have laws that govern private communications between doctors and patients by either gagging doctors from asking patients particular questions or forcing them to relay specific information—even if that “information” isn’t based on medical evidence. The Patient Trust Act will stop this dangerous practice of politicians pulling doctors’ strings.
HB 1105 – Rep. Frankel, D-Allegheny
Increasing the Minimum Wage
Since 2009, the minimum wage in Pennsylvania has been $7.25 an hour — the lowest allowed by federal law. At a $7.25 rate, a minimum-wage worker, working 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year, earns $15,080 annually, which is below the 2013 Federal Poverty Level of $19,530 for a family of three. More than 60 percent of Pennsylvania’s minimum wage earners are women, and women comprise an even higher percentage of sub-minimum wage workers. Amending the The Minimum Wage Act of 1968 would increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, and the sub-minimum, or tipped wage, to 70 – 75% of that rate.
HB 250 – Rep. Kim, D-Dauphin
Identifying gaps in health care for women veterans
Approximately 80,000 female veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan live in Pennsylvania. The unique challenges that this small but important part of the military face while transitioning back to civilian life often are overlooked. It’s time to take a stand for the women who stood for us in the line of duty. Establishing the Task Force on Women Veterans’ Health Care would create a forum where health issues facing women veterans could be studied and solutions could be explored.
HR 324 – Rep. Farry, R-Bucks, Rep. DeLissio, D-Montgomery/Philadelphia
Cell phone contract termination for DV victims
We already know financial obstacles keep domestic violence survivors in abusive situations. One financial penalty they shouldn’t need to pay for their freedom from abuse is early termination fees with cell phone accounts tethered to their abuser, or to remove their abuser’s name from the account. With proper documentation, this bill would also require the cell phone carrier to provide the survivor with a new telephone number.
HB 1108 – Rep. Schreiber, D-York
Lease Termination for DV, sexual assault and stalking victims
Another financial obstacle that works to keep victims in abusive situations is the fee for breaking a rental lease. Rental Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence would allow for early termination of a rental lease (with 30 days’ notice) if the tenant is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault and/or stalking. it also would allow victims to request that the landlord change the locks within three days at the tenant’s expense.
HB 1051 – Rep. Dean, D-Montgomery
Ensuring access to healthcare facilities
This legislation would prohibit the use of physical force, threat of physical force, or physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate, interfere with any person who is obtaining reproductive health services or providing reproductive health services. The Pennsylvania Freedom of Access to Health Care Facilities Act would also prohibit the intentional damage or destruction of a reproductive health care facility.
Did you know that women working at very small companies are not as well-protected by laws against sex discrimination as women working for big corporations? It’s true: women working at companies with three or fewer employees are not protected under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, which prohibits sexual harassment. Working people surely face sexual harassment at small businesses as well as at large companies. This bill would amend the Human Relations Act so that it applies to all employers in the Commonwealth, not just some.
HB 846 – Rep. Schlossberg, D-Lehigh
SB 506 – Sen. Costa, D-Allegheny
Uniform Reporting of Crimes on Campuses
Crime on campus, including sexual assault, is now a daily part of the national conversation. The bill would amend the Uniform Crime Reporting Act to require colleges and universities to adopt policies and programs to make students, staff and officials aware of the risk of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. It will also require colleges and universities to submit annual reports on sexual assault and intimate partner violence on campus.
SB 202 – Sen. Schwank, D-Berks
HB 1173 – Rep. Davis, D-Bucks & Rep. Donatucci, D-Phila/Bucks
Ensuring widows of state and municipal employees get fair pensions
The federal government and 27 states have a spousal consent requirement to protect spouses, usually women, from being blindsided after a spouse’s death when they discover that they are not entitled to any of their deceased spouse’s pension benefit. Pennsylvania is not among those states. The Spousal Consent to Pension Benefits legislation would require public employees to obtain spousal consent for benefit payment structures that do not provide a 50 percent survivor benefit.
SB 965 – Sen. Hughes, D-Montgomery/Philadelphia
Encourage workforce participation
To encourage workforce participation among TANF recipients, this bill would increase the amount of income that can be disregarded for the purpose of benefit calculation from 50 percent to 75 percent.
SB 203 – Sen. Schwank, D-Berks
Victory! These Agenda Bills Were Passed Into Law:
Equitable protections for domestic violence victims
The case of Lakisha Briggs revealed a horrifying reality that landlords were leveraging “nuisance” ordinances to routinely evict domestic violence victims for calling 911 for help. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery), made that practice illegal. It was signed into law as Act 200 on October 31, 2014.
Stop intimate partner harassment (“revenge porn” law)
It is now a crime in Pennsylvania to non-consensually post sexually explicit or nude photos of a former partner on the internet. HB 1901, sponsored by Rep. Thomas Murt (R-Montgomery), was signed into law on July 9, 2014 as Act 115.
A “Cliff Effect” Study
The “cliff effect” refers to a vicious cycle when a working parent earns just enough to lose eligibility for the very programs that allow her to work, such as child care assistance. S.R. 62, sponsored by Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks), is a resolution to study this effect. The resolution was approved on June 28, 2014.
Pennsylvania routinely earns abysmal rankings for the status of women’s health. Most recently, a national analysis conducted the Institute for Women’s Policy Research ranked Pennsylvania 31st for women’s health & well-being, 31st for reproductive rights, and 23rd for employment & earnings. The PA Agenda for Women’s Health is a clear, detailed blueprint for a better life for women across the Commonwealth.
The PA Campaign for Women’s Health is a brand-new coalition of citizens and advocates supporting the Agenda as part of a broader campaign to improve the health and economic security of women in Pennsylvania.
Both the Agenda and the Campaign have been well-received across the state, including coverage in the WHYY Newsworks, the Philadelphia Inquirer, WESA Pittsburgh, The Patriot-News and the National Partnership.
Click here for a print-ready two-page summary of Agenda bills.
For more information or to join the Campaign, email PA4WomensHealth@gmail.com.
The sun was shining in Franklin Square Park last weekend when I headed toward the carousel for the Big Latch On 2015.
The Big Latch On is a worldwide event where groups of women come together at registered events in public places to breastfeed their babies. The goal is to celebrate breastfeeding, raise awareness of breastfeeding support within the community, and advocate for nursing women. Organizers of the Big Latch On imagine a world where every family was supported, nurtured by their community, and where breastfeeding is a normal part of life.
Sanitary Conditions for Nursing Mothers (HB1100), sponsored by Rep. Mary Jo Daley, would require employers to provide a private, sanitary space and break time for employees who need to express breast milk. The bill is currently under consideration in the Pennsylvania legislature, and is part of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health.It was a record year for the Big Latch On: 14,536 children latched, at 654 events across 28 countries. The Franklin Square event was organized byMaternity Care Coalition, members of the PA Campaign for Women’s Health. Members of the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health attended several Big Latch On events across Pennsylvania to support breastfeeding women and share information about a bill called Sanitary Conditions for Nursing Mothers.
The PA Agenda is a bold, pro-choice legislative package of bills sponsored and supported by the Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania Legislature, a bipartisan, pro-choice group of lawmakers committed to promoting evidence-based policy solutions to real problems faced by Pennsylvania women and families.
The fact is that right now, nursing mothers in Philadelphia enjoy more workplace protections than women living elsewhere in the state. Pennsylvania needs policies that reflect modern reality: Not only do women work, but many women are both the primary breadwinner and caretaker for their family.
At the Big Latch On, women shared stories of the joy of nursing their babies, and the trauma of having to stop before they felt their child should because of challenges of expressing milk in the workplace. Many of the women nursed their babies before Philadelphia’s current law.
We believe all women across Pennsylvania deserve the right to pump milk at work in private, sanitary spaces, and that’s why we’re advocating for HB1100.
Founded in 1974, the Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center devoted to women’s rights in Pennsylvania.
Please urge your Pennsylvania lawmakers in the House Education Committee to vote against HB 1112, legislation that would suspend education data collection laws, including those related to athletics.
This bill is scheduled for a vote in the Education Committee on Monday, June 15, 2015.
The problem: HB 1112 could result in a backdoor repeal of the Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act. This act, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2012, created a good gender-equity law. It requires public secondary schools (grades 7-12) to report basic information about their school-sponsored athletic programs once a year.
True, HB 1112 specifies that the Department of Education would only suspend data collection laws it finds unnecessary, burdensome or redundant. The Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act is not unnecessary, burdensome or redundant, but that doesn’t mean the DOE won’t assert otherwise, and repeal it if HB 1112 is passed into law.
The Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act is still necessary.
Pennsylvania schools are shortchanging girls. A random review of a few of the first year’s reports shows that school districts are failing to provide female students with athletic opportunities in proportion to the percentage of female students enrolled. Gender gaps as big as 18.72% suggest that girls are losing out on the chance to play sports.
The Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act is not burdensome.
The data on athletic opportunities, such as the number of students on athletic teams and what year teams were added or eliminated, is readily available to schools. It should take only between two and six hours to fill out Pennsylvania’s reporting form. In Kentucky and Georgia, where gender equity disclosure laws have been on the books for more than a decade, school administrators take between two and six hours to complete very similar reports.
The Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act is not redundant.
Without this law, it is difficult to find gender equity data. This law puts all of the information related to athletic opportunities for girls in one place, enabling parents, students, coaches, and others in the community find out whether their public schools are providing female athletes with the equitable opportunities and treatment they deserve, as required by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Without this law, it would be much more difficult for a community to discover if their school’s athletic program is discriminating against girls.
Repealing the Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act would also increase the burden on schools, which would have to respond to possible multiple “Right to Know” requests from parents, students or community members — responses to which are due within a few days — instead of reporting the data once a year.
Requiring schools to collect and report athletic data on a yearly basis is about transparency and fairness to young women in a state with a record of discriminating against female athletes.
Without equitable access to athletic opportunities, girls lose out on the many benefits associated with team sports, ranging from friendships and fun to substantial health gains, the development of leadership skills, and access to college scholarships.
Click here to urge your legislator to vote NO on HB 1112 and stand up for the young women of Pennsylvania.
(Photo: Fullerton Memorial Playground Athletic via Flickr/Creative Commons)
A law criminalizing a type of digital harassment known as “revenge porn,” an initiative of the Agenda for Women’s Health, passed into law last year. A new analysis by The Tribune-Review reveals that in the first six months the law has been on the books, 11 cases are already underway.
“I don’t know that I want to say I’m encouraged, but I do feel vindicated,” said state Sen. Judy Schwank, co-chair of the Women’s Health Caucus. Schwank championed the legislation last year.
From the report:
A year ago, the explicit photos she didn’t know were taken would have remained online. Calls and photos from strangers would have kept coming.
She would have had no recourse.
The young woman, who attended college in the Pittsburgh area, discovered that her former boyfriend had posted explicit photos of her on the Internet.
Hers is one of 11 cases across Pennsylvania in which prosecutors have used a “revenge porn” law that was enacted six months ago.
The law makes it a crime for anyone to post explicit photos of a former partner online or send them to others. Violators could be sentenced to a year in prison and fined $5,000 if the victim is an adult, or five years with a $10,000 penalty if the victim is a minor.
“It’s scary to know that a law has been implemented specifically to address situations such as these. It means that this is becoming a common occurrence, and that’s really frightening,” the woman said.
According to a survey conducted by the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, an anti-revenge porn advocacy group, 93 percent of victims say they have experienced “significant emotional distress,” and 49 percent say they have been stalked or harassed by people who saw their images. The group notes that 90 percent of revenge porn victims are women.
As more and more states pass similar laws, a Pennsylvania State University (PSU) fraternity has made national headlines for allegations of digital harassment. Last week, it was reported that the (PSU) fraternity Kappa Delta Rho was suspended for three years following an investigation initiated after authorities discovered a Facebook page featuring images of naked women who seem to be unconscious. According to the Washington Post, fraternity members were allegedly harassing two specific female students “who were degraded through multiple postings.” Pledges were reportedly ordered to create and share “pornographic images.”
It remains to be seen if any members of PSU’s KDR fraternity will face charges under the new law.
The Agenda for Women’s Health is a legislative package of bills sponsored and supported by the Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania Legislature, a bipartisan, pro-choice group of lawmakers committed to promoting evidence-based policy solutions to real problems faced by Pennsylvania women. This initiative was the first of three bills signed into law last legislative session.
A new effort is underway for the 2015-2016 legislative session. Last month, 13 bills were introduced in Harrisburg, including initiatives to prohibit discrimination against pregnant workers, promote equal pay and raise the minimum wage.
To stay up to date on the Agenda for Women’s Health, follow our blog, twitter, facebook and tumblr pages. Sign up for our action alerts, so that we can keep you posted and tell you what you can do to show support for the Agenda, and be part of the expanding movement of ordinary Pennsylvanians calling for rational, evidence-based policy solutions to the problems faced by women in Pennsylvania.
-Tara Murtha, WLP Staff
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.
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 of only two states in the Northeast that has not followed suit.
Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 will significantly affect both male and female workers, though more women (58.6%) than men (41.4%). In descending order, white (73.4%) Black (12.4%), Hispanic (9.1%) and Asian (5%) workers will benefit the most from the hike.
Last week, Pennsylvania workers rallied for an increase in the minimum wage in Fight for 15 events across the state. A 2014 poll revealed that the majority of Pennsylvanians, both Republicans and Democrats, support raising the minimum wage.
A recent study revealed that corporations under-paying workers with minimum wage—in some cases, by the very same businesses lobbying to keep that minimum wage artificially low—are forcing taxpayers to subsidize full-time workers with benefits to the tune of $153 billion a year.
The Washington Post called it a “hidden cost” of low minimum wage.
The Agenda for Women’s Health is a legislative package of bills sponsored and supported by the Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania Legislature, a bipartisan, pro-choice group of lawmakers committed to promoting evidence-based policy solutions to real problems faced by Pennsylvania women.
To stay up to date on the Agenda for Women’s Health, follow our blog, twitter, facebook and tumblr pages. Sign up for our action alerts, so that we can keep you posted and tell you what you can do to show support for the Agenda, and be part of the expanding movement of ordinary Pennsylvanians calling for rational, evidence-based policy solutions to the problems faced by women in Pennsylvania.
-Tara Murtha, WLP Staff
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.
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.
As always, we need your support as we raise awareness around these issues. To stay up to date on the Agenda for Women’s Health, follow our blog, twitter, facebook and tumblr pages. Sign up for our action alerts, so that we can keep you posted and tell you what you can do to show support for the Agenda, and be part of the expanding movement of ordinary Pennsylvanians calling for rational, evidence-based policy solutions to the problems faced by women in Pennsylvania.
If you are in Western Pennsylvania, please come out and meet our attorneys and staff at our annual Rights to Realities party, on May 1.
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 of women and their families should not be placed at risk simply because a pregnant worker needs a chair or help lifting a box.”
Another Agenda bill ensures that when women return to work after childbirth, they have a private and sanitary space to express milk.
A recent report revealed that without intervention, women in Pennsylvania won’t achieve equal pay until 2072. The Agenda’s Equal Pay bill would close loopholes in equal pay law by prohibiting wage secrecy, which would help narrow the gender wage gap. Many of the bills in the Agenda were developed by Pennsylvania lawmakers in response to Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women.
Now, lawmakers in the Women’s Health Caucus are finalizing new legislation and preparing to announce a third wave of Agenda bills this session.
As always, we need your support as we raise awareness around these issues. To stay up to date on the Agenda for Women’s Health, follow our blog, twitter, facebook and tumblrpages. Sign up for our action alerts, so that we can keep you posted and tell you what you can do to show support for the Agenda for Women’s Health, and be part of the movement to demand rational, evidence-based policy solutions to the problems faced by women in Pennsylvania.
If you are in Western Pennsylvania, come out and meet our attorneys and staff at our annual Rights to Realities party, on May 1.
Photos: Sandi Yanisko
By Tara Murtha, WLP Staff
The Supreme Court of the United States issued an opinion yesterday in the landmark pregnancy discrimination case Peggy Young v. United Parcel Service. At issue is whether or not the company violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978.
In short, the news is good for women. The Supreme Court pushed the case back to a lower court, giving Peggy Young another chance to prove that the company discriminated against her. “We think it’s a big win for Peggy Young,” said Samuel Bagenstos, Young’s lawyer at the Supreme Court. “We think it’s a big win for pregnant workers around the country.”
This decision tells employers that if you are accommodating most non- pregnant workers with injuries or disabilities, while refusing to accommodate most pregnant workers who need it, you are likely violating the Pregnancy Discrimination Act by placing a significant burden on pregnant workers.
However, individual pregnant workers may still face uncertainty about their rights in the specific contexts of their own workplaces. Pregnant workers’ rights also vary by zipcode. In Pennsylvania, for example, certain workers in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh currently have more protections against pregnancy discrimination in the workplace than elsewhere in the state, though that could change if a proposed bill passes into law.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act 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 or forced to exhaust paid or unpaid leave 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, like Peggy Young.
When Ms. Young told UPS she was pregnant, UPS required her to get a doctor’s note “listing her restrictions,” which included her doctor’s directive to not lift more than 20 pounds. Ms. Young was otherwise willing to continue her regular duties, but Ms. Young was advised that she could not work while under a lifting restriction because she was “too much of a liability.”
Meanwhile, UPS regularly provided so-called “light duty” and similar accommodations to people with disabilities and people with on-the-job injuries. They even accommodated workers who had lost their commercial drivers’ licenses as a result of DUI convictions.
The Young opinion is encouraging step toward protecting pregnant workers from discrimination, but it also underscores the need to clarify protections for pregnant workers through “reasonable accommodations” policy.
The federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would better protect pregnant workers throughout the country. On the state level, the Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would clarify and standardize protections currently enjoyed only by certain workers across the state.
Pennsylvania: Patchwork of Protections
Currently, only certain workers in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are protected by reasonable accommodations legislation. Pennsylvania has an opportunity, though, to extend those protections statewide through the Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PPWFA).
The PPWFA would require a covered employer to make reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions unless those accommodations would prove an undue hardship on the business.
“Pregnant women in Pennsylvania should not lose their jobs or suffer the consequences of working under conditions that put their health at risk because their employers deny their requests for reasonable accommodations,” said Amal Bass, staff attorney with the Women’s Law Project. “The Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would protect these workers from having to choose between the health of their pregnancies and keeping their jobs.”
The Pregnant Workers Act is part of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health, a legislative package of women’s health and equality bills introduced by the Women’s Health Caucus, a bipartisan, prochoice group of lawmakers in the Pennsylvania legislature. So far, 14 bills have been introduced through the Agenda, and three have already passed.
The Women’s Law Project signed an amici curiae brief filed by Legal Momentum and law professors Joanna Grossman and Deborah Brake in support of Young.
From the brief: “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.”
Admitting privilege legislation is the latest trick deployed nationally by opponents of abortion rights to shrink the (already inadequate) number of abortion providers. That’s why it’s been all over the news for months.
Recently, we learned the admitting privilege controversy is coming to Pennsylvania.
The bill will be co-sponsored by Rep. Kathy Rapp. You may recall Rapp, a member of the Susan B. Anthony National Pro-life Caucus, as a sponsor of Pennsylvania’s mandatory ultrasound bill–an idea ridiculed by professional medical associations. (Then former Governor Corbett advised women endure the medically unnecessary procedure by just closing their eyes, and the entire country wondered what was wrong with Pennsylvania.) The other sponsor is Rep. Bryan Barbin, the Democratic leader of the Pennsylvania House Pro-Life Caucus.
What are admitting privileges?
Admitting privileges refer to a specific type of contractual arrangement between hospitals and doctors. It is not required for a doctor to send patients to a hospital.
So why suddenly require an unnecessary new contract? What’s the trick here?
As usual, proponents of the bill claim they want to protect women.
In reality, admitting privileges have nothing do with medical safety and everything to do with creating an opportunity to force doctors who provide abortion care to stop working and abortion clinics to shut down.
Hospitals are not required to provide admitting privileges to qualified doctors because they aren’t necessary.
Because admitting privileges are unnecessary, many hospitals deny granting them to a doctor unless he or she sends them a certain number of patients per year. So ironically, one reason doctors who perform abortions are often not granted admitting privileges is because abortion is safe.
Hospital administrators can deny doctors admitting privileges if the doctor doesn’t live within a certain number of miles of the hospital.
But really, hospital administrators don’t need any reason at all to deny admitting privileges. Catholic hospitals, for example, are required to follow health care directiveshanded down by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops—they aren’t exactly handing out admitting privileges to doctors who provide abortion care and contraception. Meanwhile, the number of Catholic hospitals continues to grow.
All that suddenly and randomly requiring doctors and hospitals draw up an “admitting privileges” contract does is give administrators of hospitals that don’t provide abortion care the power to veto abortion from happening at any clinic or office within a 30-mile radius of their hospital.
It just doesn’t make sense.
While always unnecessary, the concept of admitting privileges is particularly absurd in Pennsylvania, one of the few states where facilities providing abortion care have, by law, already maintained transfer agreements with hospitals for decades.
Under the new law, if passed, a Pennsylvania doctor who performs an abortion who doesn’t have an admitting privileges contract with a hospital within 30 miles of his or her office can be convicted of a third degree misdemeanor for providing patient care.
Urge Representatives Rapp and Barbin to really support women’s health
Forcing abortion providers to close their doors by inventing new regulations doesn’t help the hard-working women of Pennsylvania.
It’s unfortunate that anti-choice Pennsylvania lawmakers are spending their time trying to shut down the 13 remaining providers of safe and legal abortion left in Pennsylvania instead of working to actually protect women’s health and economic security.
Since Representatives Rapp and Barbin say they’re interested in protecting women’s health, it’s hard to understand why they haven’t seen fit to cosponsor health-protecting measures that women actually want and need. We formally invite them to support the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health, a bipartisan landmark legislative package designed to enable women’s health and economic security.
The Agenda for Women’s Health offers Pennsylvania lawmakers plenty of opportunities to protect and promote women’s health and economic security, including eliminating discrimination against pregnant and nursing employees, ensuring doctors are not forced to lie to patients, and promoting equal pay protections for women.
“Admitting privileges” is an attempt to disempower doctors and trick the people of Pennsylvania. It is a bad bill. Don’t let it come to Pennsylvania.
Click here to tell your representatives that you trust doctors and medical experts, not politicians to determine best healthcare practices. Tell them if they really want to protect women’s health, they should support bills in the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health instead of playing tricks with doctor’s rights and women’s lives.