Family and Medical Leave and Caregiver Discrimination
At its first meeting in 2005, the Board of the Southwest Women’s Law Center (SWLC) voted to make the area of family and medical leave a priority of the organization. Men and women in the workplace are often torn between taking care of the medical needs of self or family and risking the loss of their jobs. Women workers often bear the greatest burden of caring for children and sick family members. Because of this, SWLC maintains that workplace flexibility and promotion of reasonable paid sick and family leave will help women to obtain and keep their jobs, be more productive in the workplace, support their families, and be economically self-sufficient.
SWLC’s first programmatic effort in this area has been to ensure that victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in New Mexico are able to participate in court proceedings, obtain orders of protection and consult with attorneys and law enforcement without risking the loss of their jobs. For more information on this programmatic priority of the SWLC, click here (link to [Job Security for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Survivors]).
In addition, SWLC has partnered with the other regional women’s law centers in the country and the Center for WorkLife Law to focus on new and emerging legal theories relating to Family Responsibilities Discrimination – cases where workers are discriminated against based on their family care giving responsibilities, including assumptions and biases regarding how such individuals will or should act. The Center for Worklife Law has developed and promoted this concept among employers, labor unions, policymakers, advocates and courts around the country. SWLC is exploring this creative and important area of law for possible programmatic activities in the future. For more information on the issue of Family Responsibilities Discrimination, please refer to the website of the Center for Worklife Law at www.worklifelaw.org
The Wage Gap in New Mexico
New Mexico ranked 42nd in the nation with women earning only 71% of what men earn, according to a ranking published in 2006 by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). IWPR also released a study in 2008 showing that nationally women earned only 62% of what men earned over a fifteen-year period, in part because women were moving in and out of the labor market far more often than men.
New Mexico Earnings Gaps Analysis: New Mexico Women Lag Far Behind Men in Economic Opportunity- The Southwest Women’s Law Center (SWLC) and Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish released this county-by-county analysis of the pay gap in New Mexico in April 2008. For a copy of the report, click here. Some of the findings are:
- Over half of the women who work fulltime and year-round in 29 of 33 New Mexico counties earn so little that they are eligible for food stamps and child care assistance for a family of four.
- In every county but two (the wealthiest – Los Alamos – and the poorest – McKinley) women’s poverty rates are higher than men’s. In Los Alamos and McKinley counties, the poverty rates for men and women are about the same.
- The highest wage gap between men and women is in Los Alamos, the county with the lowest rate of poverty in the State. Women in Los Alamos County earned only 57% of what men earned, demonstrating that the wage gap cuts across all income levels. Mining communities also had particularly high wage gaps.
- Santa Fe County had the smallest wage gap. Women in Santa Fe County earned 83% of what men earned in 1999, and the gap was significantly smaller in 2006, only 91%. Two factors explaining these higher rates appear to be the increase in the minimum wage in Santa Fe and that the State employs many County residents.
- The earnings gap for minority women and men compared to white men is extremely high, but it is compounded for minority women. In 2004, Hispanic women earned 53%, Native American women earned 55%, and African American women earned only 58% of what white men earned.
New Mexico Initiatives Promoting Equal Pay
Lilly Ledbetter’s Visit to New Mexico - Hosting nationally-renown equal pay advocate, Lilly Ledbetter, has been part of the Southwest Women’s Law Center’s continuing efforts to bring attention to pay inequity while also promoting state and national legislation aimed at closing the wage gap. In April 2009, Ms. Ledbetter came to New Mexico to address dignitaries and supporters of the Southwest Women’s Law Center at the SWLC’s 4th anniversary celebration. Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish introduced Ms. Ledbetter.
Taskforce on Fair and Equal Pay
Governor Bill Richardson created this taskforce in 2009, to study and remedy any pay equity and job segregation issues with businesses holding contracts with the State. A report from the taskforce, “Gender Pay Gap Report in State Government from Governor Bill Richardson’s Office,” authored by Martha Burk, Ph.D., is a preliminary examination of gender wage gaps in six departments of state government. For a copy of the report, click here.
Equal Pay Taskforce
Representative Rhonda King sponsored HB 325 to create a taskforce of diverse representatives to study wage disparities between men, women, non-minorities, and minorities, and to provide policy recommendations. (2003 passed) The Task Force issued a report authored by Carol Horwitz, Ph.D. in December of 2003.
Prohibiting Adverse Action Against an Employee for Discussing Salary or Other Pay sponsored by Senator Linda Lopez. This bill proposed to amend the New Mexico Human Rights Act to protect employees who discuss their salaries with co-workers (2009 not passed). For the bill text, click here.
Prohibiting Adverse Action Against an Employee for Discussing Salary or Other Pay sponsored by Representative Al Park. This bill proposed to amend the New Mexico Human Rights Act to protect employees who discuss their salaries with co-workers (2009 not passed). For the bill text, click here.
Federal Initiatives Promoting Equal Pay
Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
This Act amends Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal anti-discrimination employment law, to respond to the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court had interpreted Title VII to require complaints to be filed within 180 days of when the discrimination first began, which was an insurmountable deadline given that employees can work for years without learning of ongoing discrimination (January 29, 2009 signed into law by President Obama).
Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 12 and S.182)
Sponsored in the Senate by then-Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and in the House by Representative Rosa DeLauro, this bill is aimed at strengthening the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by, among other things, improving remedy provisions, facilitating class action Equal Pay Act claims and prohibiting employer retaliation. (January 9, 2009 passed by the House and is still pending in the Senate).
Fair Pay Act
Introduced in the last Congress by Senator Tom Harkin and in the House by Representative Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, this bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA). It is aimed at equalizing wage disparities between jobs that are segregated on the basis of sex, race, or national origin, but require equivalent skills, effort, responsibility, and working conditions. It is also aimed at prohibiting employer retaliation and requiring employer record-keeping.
For information on these federal initiatives, visit:
National Committee on Pay Equity’s website
National Women’s Law Center’s website
Equal Pay Day
Every year, equal pay advocates across the U.S. use wage gap data to mark the day on which women in this country have earned the same amount as men have earned by January 1st. For the past several years, the date has fallen in April. In 2009, it was April 28th. For more information of this, click here.