Wins for Women: Fighting Back Against Unconstitutional Abortion Bans, Unequal Pay, and Sexual Harassment/Assault

On April 24, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill into law that will make the state one of the strongest examples of equal pay legislation in the country. (Photo: Andrea Johnson)

The month of April has been BUSY. Equal Pay Day was April 10th— this is the day that marks how far into the year women across race, ethnicity, and industry have to work to catch up to their male counterparts’ salaries from the year before. Equal Pay Day prompted a handful of states to move Equal Pay legislation. YAY! (But there is still A LOT of work to be done). April is also Sexual Assault Awareness Month and a couple of states have made strides to further protect survivors on campus as well as in the workplace. Here’s to even more wins in the future!
7th Circuit Court of Appeals rules Indiana abortion ban unconstitutional
On Thursday, April 7th the Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Indiana House Enrolled Act 1337, signed into law by then-Governor Mike Pence in March 2016, is unconstitutional. The law banned women from having abortions based on the gender, race, national origin, ancestry, or diagnosis of a disability. The court said that the ban imposed an “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to have an abortion, and reiterated that, under Supreme Court precedent, the state cannot prohibit a woman’s right to abortion before viability.
Maryland General Assembly passes campus sexual assault bill
On April 9th, the last night of the legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly passed House Bill 913; a campus sexual assault bill that helps ensures a fair process for all higher education students. The bill will provide basic access to information for students, protect students against inquiries into their sexual histories or mental health treatment, hold the line against the rollback of protections for survivors at the federal level, limit the use of mediation to appropriate cases, and provide students with access to counsel paid for by the Maryland Higher Education Commission. The National Women’s Law Center testified in support of the bill in both the House and Senate.
Rhode Island Senate passes two Equal Pay bills on Equal Pay Day
On April 10th, the Rhode Island Senate passed two equal pay bills—one bill passed with unanimous support (S. 2475)! It strengthens Rhode Island’s equal pay law by closing loopholes in the law, strengthening remedies, requiring greater transparency around pay, and prohibiting employers from relying on job applicants’ salary history.  It also extends Rhode Island’s equal pay protections to others protected characteristics, including race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. The other bill, requiring the collection of pay data (S. 2638), passed with only one dissenting vote. This bill requires employers with 100 or more employees to report workforce compensation data broken down by sex, race, and ethnicity. This new requirement will shine much needed light on pay disparities and incentivize employers to evaluate their payrolls and correct any unjustified disparities. It will also help the Rhode Island government more efficiently conduct outreach and enforcement to close the wage gap. On April 12th, the National Women’s Law Center testified in support of the bill in the Rhode Island House.
Chicago Mayor signs Executive Order on salary history
On April 10th, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel signed an Executive Order prohibiting city departments from either asking applicants what they were paid on previous jobs or seeking that salary history from current and former employers. The Executive Order also prohibits city departments from requiring that a candidate’s prior hourly wages, annual salary, benefits or other compensation “satisfy minimum or maximum criteria.”
New Jersey enacts one of the strongest Equal Pay bills in the country
On March 26th, New Jersey lawmakers passed the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act with near unanimous support. This bill closes loopholes in New Jersey’s current equal pay law, strengthens remedies for victims of pay discrimination, and increases transparency around pay, including by requiring state contractors to report pay data broken down by sex, race, and ethnicity. It also extends equal pay protections to other protected characteristics including race. This bill makes New Jersey’s equal pay law one of the strongest in the country. The Governor signed the bill into law on April 24! NWLC testified in support of this bill and attended the bill signing!
New York City council passes 11 bills to address sexual harassment in the workplace
On April 12th, the New York City council passed 11 bills to strengthen workplace sexual harassment protections. These bills will strengthen New York City’s sexual harassment laws in many ways, including by requiring employers with 15 or more workers to conduct annual anti-sexual-harassment training for all employees; extending the statute of limitations for filing harassment claims from one to three years;  requiring contractors to include their anti-sexual-harassment policies in applications for city business; and  requiring city agencies to report workplace harassment incidents to the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. These new requirements will make a difference for women workers, who deserve to pursue their careers without the threat of harassment or retaliation. The bills await Mayor de Blasio’s signature.