In a year that will forever be measured by the simple fact that we survived, the Law Center surged, pivoted, innovated, and zoomed our way to change for women and girls. Whether leading the fight for COVID relief, launching groundbreaking fellowships virtually, demanding more funding for child care, or creating the first-ever Survivors’ Agenda, we worked against all odds to ensure that justice for her was front and center in the story of 2020.
TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund
Based on analysis of 3,317 requests for legal help submitted to the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, NWLC released a report uncovering the dynamics and trends of workplace sexual harassment. Among the stark discoveries: more than seven in 10 people who experienced workplace sex harassment faced some form of retaliation—including termination, being sued for defamation, and denial of promotions. The report’s findings provide a unique blueprint for legislators and corporate leaders to effectively design measures that will combat workplace sexual harassment.
Since its launch, 600 attorneys across the country have joined the Legal Network for Gender Equity, and the TULDF has received more than 5,000 requests for legal help from workers who have experienced sexual harassment on the job and funded 263 cases. In addition to several other cases, TULDF is supporting a group of McDonald’s workers in their class action lawsuit against more than 100 McDonald’s corporate–owned and –operated restaurants in Florida for failure to protect its employees from sexual harassment and assault. This builds on the Fund’s prior support of McDonald’s workers across the country in 2018 and 2019.
NWLC launched the Brick by Brick curriculum in partnership with fellows through SMYAL and piloted a fellowship project with four young, LGBTQ-identified advocates. The fellows were taught and helped launch the Brick by Brick curriculum, which includes “know-you-rights” education, history that is not commonly shared or centered, leadership development for students, and projects.
NWLC created …and they cared in partnership with the Education Trust, a toolkit that provides actionable steps grounded in student voices, supported by research, and accompanied by three case studies—Oakland Unified School District, Chicago Public Schools, and statewide efforts in Massachusetts—to address racial disparities in school discipline.
NWLC helped push numerous school climate bills forward that will protect the safety and dignity of Black and brown girls, including: Ending PUSHOUT Act, Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act, Protecting Our Students in Schools Act, and The CROWN Act. NWLC met in-person and virtually to discuss the Dress Code Equity Act (HB 837) with young, Black students in Richmond, VA. Through our partnership with Girls for a Change, we received valuable input on new dress code legislation passed in VA.
NWLC pushed for $50 billion in child care funding, which included conducting groundbreaking research to explain sustaining the child care system requires a monthly investment of $9.6 billion. We spearheaded a coalition letter signed by more than 500 organizations calling for at least $50 billion in relief spending. These efforts led to historic vote on child care funding.
NWLC advocacy secured $3.5 billion in dedicated funding in CARES Act.
The House voted for the first time on child care, and Nancy Pelosi used stories from the NWLC–led child care coalition to provide examples of the effects of closing child care centers.
NWLC released a series of economic reports on women front-line workers, along with monthly unemployment analyses, that exposed the pandemic’s devastating and disproportionate impact on women’s jobs and lives, particularly Black women and Latinas. These analyses were picked up by high visibility press outlets and helped shape public and policymakers’ understanding that U.S. policy responses require expansive relief packages that center on women of color.
After leading an advocacy coalition for 9 years, NWLC helped secure the historic bipartisan passage of the Pregnant Workers Protection Act (PWFA), which would require employers to make reasonable accommodations for those pregnant employees who need them.
NWLC and co-counsel settled a $14 million pregnancy discrimination case with Walmart, one of the first pregnancy accommodation cases in the U.S. to settle as a class action. Four thousand women denied pregnancy accommodations while working at Walmart between March 2013 and 2014 are at the center of this case that was seven years in the making.
NWLC launched the Survivors’ Agenda, a multi-racial, digital initiative that brings survivors together through virtual town halls, kitchen table conversations, and online surveys to create a platform that drives policies that build a world free of sexual violence.
NWLC played a critical role in the passage of significant state legislation to close the wage gap and protect pregnant workers in 2020, including: California’s pay data collection bill, Virginia’s Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, and Maryland’s salary history bill.
Reproductive Rights and Health
NWLC helped draft language for the Strengthening Reproductive Health Protections Act Amendment (SRHPAA), which was unanimously passed by the D.C. Council and signed into law by Mayor Bowser on March 23. NWLC educated policymakers, led support for the bill, testified, and build a public campaign.
NWLC led the public effort to eliminate a provision in a COVID relief package that would deny providers who accept Medicaid reimbursement access to the Paycheck Protection Program Small Business Loan program. NWLC led coordination for a letter that was signed by more than 270 organizations opposing the exclusion. Proponents of the exclusion explained it was drafted to exclude abortion providers. The final CARES Act did not include the exclusion.
NWLC engaged in several Supreme Court cases, including: Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, Texas v. California, and June Medical Services v. Russo. Our engagement NWLC coordinated closely with attorney generals on amicus brief response, coalition response, media interviews, and a virtual birth control rally. The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited our amicus brief in the dissent for Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania.
NWLC actively challenged narratives around the recession to center the experiences of women. Through NWLC’s Shecession series, we are informing the public of how the state of the economy disproportionately impacts women.
NWLC opposed three Trump administration attacks on fair housing, driving nearly 30,000 comments and submitting substantive comments to describe how the proposed rules would negatively impact women facing multiple forms of discrimination.
NWLC led the largest expansion in unemployment protections in history, providing millions of workers with access to pandemic unemployment benefits that helped families meet basic needs and prevent economic catastrophe.
NWLC joined an amicus brief with the Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights Under Law in District of Columbia v. U.S. Department of Agriculture describing how the rule will have disproportionate impacts in ways that harm women of color, as well as people of color of all genders. In October, the district court granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs and vacated the SNAP time limits rule.
Strategy and Policy
NWLC worked closely with partners in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, and South Carolina during the Barrett Supreme Court confirmation fight. We advised on strategy and messaging, and regranted $10,000 to each organization.
NWLC supported and grew our state advocate and state legislator partners by launching a bi-weekly state newsletter to deliver the most timely and helpful COVID-19-related resources to state partners. NWLC also developed COVID relief policy recommendations for states that helped inspire states to launch their own COVID gender justice agendas.
NWLC conducted two critical polls in 2020 to assess Black women voters’ priority issues for the November election and understand the impact of COVID-19 on women of color voters as well as the key policy changes and relief they needed. Two key resources emerged from this work; Our Vote Matters: Addressing the Issues Important to Black Women in Michigan detailing Black women voters’ key issues, concerns, and the level to which Black women voters had been centered by either political party. In August 2020, we published The Impact of COVID on Michigan’s Women of Color Voters, more directly connecting the deleterious effects of COVID-19 on Michigan’s women of color voters. This research provided analysis on how women of color voters—Black, Latina, and Asian women voters—are impacted, key findings on relief and recovery, and what leaders need to do to implement a women of color centered recovery.