Our Legal Team Championing Women’s Rights: LM Monthly Newsletter April 2019

April 11, 2019

#HandsOffIX: We Strongly Oppose Proposed Title IX Changes

On January 28, Legal Momentum Deputy Legal Director Jennifer Becker, former Title IX Coordinator for the nation’s largest K-12 school district, submitted a public comment to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. LM has fought to protect Title IX since the landmark 1979 Supreme Court case Cannon v. University of Chicago, and whenever it comes under attack – as it is at this time – we defend this crucial law. Our comment expresses LM’s strong opposition to, and grave concern regarding, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ proposed rules about how schools respond to sexual harassment that would fundamentally alter Title IX. Click here to read LM’s full comment as publicly submitted to the Office for Civil Rights.

The proposed rules would inhibit schools from effectively responding to sexual harassment — giving schools less flexibility and imposing more rigidity in what constitutes “compliance” — and would impose costs, both monetary and psychological, well beyond what is contemplated by the Department of Education. As Jennifer wrote, “The proposed rules permit, and in places require, institutions to refuse to respond to many instances of sexual harassment and violence… Devastation will be endured by victims… The proposed rules are legally flawed, bad policy, and diminish the mandate of Title IX.”

An Ongoing Struggle: Pregnancy Discrimination in NYC

On January 30, the New York City Commission on Human Rights held a hearing at CUNY School of Law on pregnancy and caregiver discrimination in the workplace. Legal Momentum Senior Attorney for Economic Empowerment Seher Khawaja, an expert in economic justice and human rights law, submitted written testimony to this hearing highlighting the persistent prevalence of pregnancy and caregiver discrimination despite the passage of critical protections for pregnant and caregiving workers in New York City. LM has defended the rights of pregnant workers since 1987 – see our work on the 2015 Supreme Court case Young v. UPS – through to today. Click here to read LM’s full testimony as submitted to the Commission on Human Rights.

Our testimony sought to shed light on the act that employers do not understand their obligations to provide pregnant workers with reasonable accommodations when requested. We encouraged the NYC Commission to convene a task force of employers and employees — especially those in high-risk industries — to identify challenges and develop practical solutions to ensure that employers are adequately accommodating pregnant workers in need of workplace adjustments. As Seher wrote, “Discrimination on that basis of pregnancy or caregiver status undermines the wellbeing and economic security of too many women and their families… Today, getting pregnant still threatens to drastically and negatively alter a women’s economic security or career trajectory, and the consequences of this discrimination can be financially debilitating.”

We Must Combat Labor Trafficking in the U.S. and Abroad

On February 22, the United Nations Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women held a half-day general session to discuss recommendations on the issue of trafficking in women and girls in the context of global migration. Legal Momentum fights to protect the rights of working women, including those who have been trafficked, through our Women Valued Initiative. LM Senior Attorney for Economic Empowerment Seher Khawaja, an active member of the New York City Bar Association’s United Nations Committee, partnered with our former Legal Director, Martha F. Davis — Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Experimental Education at Northeastern University School of Law and Faculty Director for the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE) — to file a joint submission to the CEDAW Committee highlighting the oft-overlooked impact of labor trafficking on women in the United States. Click here to read LM’s full submission to the United Nations. 

Our legal team and Professor Davis provided the CEDAW Committee with legislative and policy recommendations to address the grave issue of the labor trafficking of women in the United States, highlighting the critical role that local legislative remedies can play in addressing trafficking. As we wrote in our submission, “The U.S. experience provides critical insights and lessons-learned to guide States Parties in crafting legislation [addressing labor trafficking] that is practical, effective, protective of survivors, and avoids some of the pitfalls that currently exist in the U.S… When the federal government has fallen short in prioritizing, protecting, and promoting human rights, certain states and cities have taken the lead, implementing localized laws and policies to address trafficking and to close critical gaps in legal protection. This localized approach serves as an important model for States Parties to explore when considering where and how to enact legislation to address trafficking at home.”

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