Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health: Phase Two

Logo for the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health

Logo for the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health

On June 3, I gave an update on the second roll-out of bills associated with the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health. At the time, I did not have the bill numbers associated with each of these new bills nor did I have the information on where they were sent to. Now I do. Here’s that information.

Phase Two

Curbing Political Interference in Providers’ Medical Decisions:

H.B. 2303 will soon be introduced by Rep. Dan Frankel (D—Allegheny) to protect the doctor-patient relationship from directives to practice care in a manner that is not in accordance with standards of care. Senator Mike Stack (D—Philadelphia) has agreed to introduce the Senate version of this bill

Identifying gaps in health care for women veterans:

S.R. 262 has been introduced by Senator LeAnna Washington (D—Philadelphia and Montgomery) establishing a 17-member Task Force on Women Veterans’ Health Care that will study health care issues unique to women veterans, along with the quality of and access to care for women veterans. It is currently in the Senate VETERANS AFFAIRS AND EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS Committee. The House version is sponsored by Representatives Pam DeLissio (D—Philadelphia an Montgomery) and Kevin Schreiber (D-York); their co-sponsorship memo is currently being circulated, but no bill number has yet been assigned.

Fighting deep poverty among women with children:

There are three different bills designed to address this issue.

    1. S.R. 62 has been introduced by Senator Chuck McIIhinney (R—Bucks). This resolution “directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) to study approaches to family work support programs which will increase income, keep families working and mitigate the circumstance referred to as the cliff effect.  This effect occurs when working parents receive a minor increase in their income that makes them ineligible for various programs that allow them to work such as child care assistance, transportation, food stamps and free and reduced school lunches.  The phenomenon often creates disincentives for poor families to achieve self-sufficiency.” It was sent to the Senate Aging and Youth Committee for review. On June 10, this committee unanimously voted in support of the bill and the bill is now waiting for the next review by the full Senate.
    2. H.B. 2305 will soon be introduced by Rep. Madeleine Dean (D—Montgomery). It will increase the monthly Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits for women in need. This bill will increase the maximum TANF grant amount to 50% of the Federal Poverty Level and would allow annual adjustments to be made based on revisions to this index of poverty.
    3. H.B. 2306 will soon be introduced by Rep. Michelle Brownlee (D—Philadelphia). It will increase in the TANF Earned Income Disregard from 50% to 75% to encourage individuals to work by acknowledging that working families have unique expenses that take up a large percentage of their take home pay. This increase would help offset the additional taxes, transportation, clothing, and child care co-pays associate with working. The current disregard level is not enough to offset these additional costs.  A Senate version to be introduced by Senator Judy Schwank (D—Berks) is circulating a co-sponsorship memo to introduce this same legislation in the Senate; a bill number has yet to be assigned.

Ensuring widows of state and municipal employees get fair pensions:

There are two different bills designed to address this issue. These bills require that a public employee select a retirement plan payment structure that provides no less than a fifty percent (50%) survivor annuity to the employee’s surviving spouse. These bills would bring spouses of public employees the same survivor protections that all other employees currently have. This is necessary since the federal Retirement Equity Act of 1984 does not cover employees of the state, local municipalities, or public schools. These bills mirror the spousal protections provided in federal law. Rep. Steve Santarsiero (D—Bucks) is circulating the co-sponsorship memo in the House for H.B. 2307 and H.B.2308. Senator Vincent Hughes (D—Montgomery and Philadelphia) is circulating the co-sponsorship memo in the Senate to introduce similar legislation in the chamber.

Protecting all employees against sexual harassment:

H.B. 2300 has been introduced by Rep. Michael Schlossberg (D-LeHigh) to amend the PA Human Relations Act to extend the prohibition on sexual harassment to all employers in the state. Currently law only affects employers with four or more employees. This bill is currently in the House LABOR AND INDUSTRY Committee.

Taking Action on the PA Agenda for Women’s Health

Ni-Ta-Nee NOW logo of a woman successfully scaling Nittany Mountain and working for equality

Ni-Ta-Nee NOW logo

And FYI, my local chapter of the National Organization for Women — Ni-Ta-Nee NOW — will be circulating a petition in support of this Agenda at the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts in State College, PA on July 10-12, 2014. Our table will be located in front of Freeze Thaw Cycles, 109 S Allen St, State College, PA 16801 from 10 am to 8 pm each day. Please drop by, learn more about this Agenda, sign the petition, register to vote, and join NOW.

Pennsylvania for Women’s Health Agenda Update

Logo for the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health

Logo for the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health

Last September, a bicameral, bipartisan caucus was created in the Pennsylvania General Assembly to review, discuss, and propose legislation to improve the health of women in the Commonwealth by addressing the genuine needs and concerns of women in the state. The Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health was created as a comprehensive plan to address the real-life stories and concerns of women in terms of protecting and expanding women’s reproductive health, improving women’s economic security, and improving safety in their lives.

The First Set of Bills

On December 11, the first five bills were presented and introduced into both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The first set of bills addressed a variety of concerns for women by:

  • Making sure that women receive pregnancy accommodations in their workplace;
  • Creating a 15-foot buffer zone around entrances to health to make sure women seeking reproductive healthcare are able to access it in an orderly and safe manner;
  • Addressing “pay secrecy” and the “factor other than sex” loophole will help to end practices that have enabled employers to pay women less than men for the same work;
  • Expanding access to cervical cancer treatment. This bill is a state Pay Equity bill similar to the federal Paycheck Fairness Act;
  • Eliminating local ordinances that penalize landlords and/or tenants who call the police or emergency services “too frequently;” and
  • Outlawing “revenge porn,” a form of digital intimate-partner violence.

Of the first six set of bills, four have had some movement since my first detailed look at the bills on January 22.

Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act

The House version of the Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act (HB 1892) was formally introduced and referred to the House Labor and Industry Committee where it is still awaiting a hearing. The companion Senate bill (SB 1209) was introduced on March 31 and was referred to the Senate Labor and Industry Committee; it too is awaiting its first hearing.

Pay Equity

The Pay Equity Bill basically hasn’t moved since being introduced. The House version (HB 1890) was introduced and referred to House Labor and Industry Committee on February 19. The Senate version (SB 1209) was introduced and referred to Senate Labor and Industry Committee on March 31; it has not moved since its introduction. However, the House sponsors of HB 1890 have filed a “Resolution to discharge committee from further consideration.” This was filed on April 7. This type of resolution is a rarely used tactic to force debate on a bill when the chair of the committee the bill is assigned to refuses to hold hearings on the bill. We are now waiting to see how the full House will respond to this resolution.

Victims of Crime

The bill protecting victims of crime by eliminating local ordinances that penalize landlords and/or tenants who call the police or emergency services “too frequently” (HB 1796) was introduced on October 22. After its introduction, the House Local Government Committee amended the bill to clarify that bill only applies to cases that involve victims of violence, abuse, or “individuals in an emergency” if the person making the call had a reasonable belief that police intervention or emergency assistance was needed. It unanimously passed House January 14, 2014. It was then referred to Senate Local Government Committee. January 21, 2014. Unfortunately, on March 11 the Senate Local Government Committee was tacked on an ALEC bill as an amendment, turning this good bill into a bad bill. This local ordinance sick-leave preemption bill undermines the safety of domestic violence victims. Under the amendment, local governments would lose their authority to require employers to offer paid or unpaid leave to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Leave from employment is often critical to a victim’s survival in both the short- and long-term. This amendment adds another purpose and intent to HB 1796 that conflicts with its original commitment to protect victims. Advocates, including but not limited to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Women’s Law Project, and Pennsylvania NOW, are urging the legislature to support the version of HB 1796 that was passed by the House of Representatives and to remove the problematic language that was adopted in Senate Local Government Committee. We still support the portion of HB 1796 that would eliminate local nuisance ordinances that penalize a victim for seeking help from emergency services. As a result of our subsequent lobbying to remove this amendment, the Senate has temporarily tabled the bill.

Revenge Porn Prohibition

The “Revenge Porn” bill is the most successful of this first round of bills. The Senate version (SB 1167) was amended in Senate Judiciary Committee January 14, 2014 and sent to the floor for 1st consideration. It unanimously passed the Senate on January 28, 2014 and is now residing in the House Judiciary Committee alongside HB 1901.

The Second Set of Bills

Today, the Women’s Health Agenda Caucus announced the second package of bills to be introduced. They include five bills intended to:

  • Curb political interference in providers’ medical decisions. This bill protects the doctor-patient relationship from directives to practice care in a manner that is not in accordance with standards of care;
  • Identify gaps in health care for women veterans by establishing the Task Force on Women Veterans’ Health Care to study health issues facing women veterans;
  • Fight deep poverty among women with children. This bill Includes a study of family work support programs in the Commonwealth, increases the monthly Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits for women in need; and increases in the TANF Earned Income Disregard;
  • Ensure that widows of state and municipal employees get fair pensions by requiring public employees to obtain spousal consent for benefit payment structures that do not provide at least a 50% survivor benefit; and
  • Protect all employees against sexual harassment by extending the prohibition on sexual harassment to all employers in the state.

Pennsylvania NOW is one of the organizations supporting this full agenda to improve women’s health. I am their lobbyist. At the press conference this morning, I handed out our statement of support. In that statement, I supported each of these bills, saying, “It’s high time that doctors were supported in their right to refuse to provide medically inaccurate information. The increases to TANF cash assistance grant levels and the eligibility asset limit will encourage saving and financial independence. We’re also glad to see sexual harassment protections extended to all workers, and see that female veteran’s health concerns finally get the attention it deserves.”

As advocates for women’s health and equity we are pleased to see the legislature taking a pro-active stance to help improve the lives of women here in Pennsylvania. As Caryn Hunt said in the Pennsylvania NOW press release, ““The women of Pennsylvania need – and now finally have – champions in the legislature who recognize that government must work for all of the people, women included.” We are pleased and “strongly support this Agenda that puts the health and well-being of women and their families first.”

(note: The bill numbers associated with each of these bills will be announced on this blog as soon as I know what they are or will be.)

 

Equal Pay Day 2014: Another Year of Inequity

For the last three years, my local NOW chapter—Ni-Ta-Nee NOW—has organized community education events surrounding Equal Pay Day and paycheck fairness.  We have focused on this issue because of the continuing inequity in women’s wages as compared to the male coworkers.

A frequent question we have is, “What’s Equal Pay Day and why should I care?”  To help answer that question, we have done op-eds and interviews with the local press (See here and here).  We also create a flyer that we update each year.  As President of Pennsylvania NOW, I wrote another blog on this issue in 2011. And last year, I commented on Equal Pay Day 2013 as well as the need for fairness in pay.

Like last year, my local NOW chapter will once again be distributing Equal Pay Day flyers in front of the gates of The Pennsylvania State University over the dinner hour.

Why today? Because Equal Pay Day moves from year to year. For 2014, that day is April 8.

The following is a web-based version of this flyer updated from 2013 to reflect today’s stats and information. The hard-copy version focuses on Pennsylvania. I have kept that information here and added additional commentary and links for information and contacts in other states.

TUESDAY APRIL 8, 2014 is EQUAL PAY DAY

IT’S THE DAY ON WHICH WOMEN’S WAGES CATCH UP WITH MEN’S WAGES FROM THE PREVIOUS YEAR.

The wage gap is the ratio of women’s to men’s median annual earnings for full-time, full-year workers. Based on these earnings, women across the US earned just 77% of what men earned (AAUW, 2014).

Equal Pay Day symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year. In 2014, it took 1 day LESS than in 2013, 9 days LESS than in 2012, and 2 day MORE than in 2011 for a woman to earn as much as a man earned in the entire year. At the current rate of progress, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates that it will be 2057 before women’s wages reach parity and Equal Pay Day will finally be on December 31 rather than somewhere in April of the following year!

 THE WAGE GAP

The Wage Gap - Lack of Equal Pay

The Wage Gap – Lack of Equal Pay

Nationally, Asian American women have the smallest wage gap, earning 87 percent of what the average white man earned in 2012. White women are next, earning approximately 78 percent of white men’s average income. Hawaiian and Asian Pacific women (65 percent), African-American women (64 percent), Native American and Alaskan Native women (60 percent), and Hispanic women (53 percent) have the largest wage gaps as compared to white men (AAUW, 2014). A typical woman earns $431,000 less in pay over 40 years due to this wage gap. (Center for American Progress, 2012)

THE WAGE GAP IN PENNSYLVANIA

The wage gap is even worse, in Pennsylvania. When ranked among the other 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania’s wage gap placed the state at 40out of 51 states. The median annual income for a woman working full-time, year round in Pennsylvania in 2012 was $37,414, compared to men’s $49,330 or 76% of what a man earns. This is a wage gap of 24%.

Of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the nation, only Seattle ranks worse than Pittsburgh (with a gap of 27%); Philadelphia fairs better than the state with a gap of just 20%. A typical woman in PA earns $459,000 less in pay over 40 years due to this wage gap. This gap rises to $722,000 for women who have earned college degrees (Center for American Progress, 2010)

WHAT CAN I DO??

If You are an Employer

If you are an employer, you can get help in examining pay practices by conducting an equal pay self-audit using the guidelines from the US Department of Labor (available at www.pay-equity.org/cando-audit.html).

If You Believe You Are Experiencing Wage-Based Discrimination

Tell your employer if you are being paid less than your male co-workers. Click here for some tips on negotiating for pay equity.

If there’s a union at your place of work, ask for their help.

If discrimination persists: There are three places to file complaints – at the federal level, at the state level, and at the local level.

At the Federal Level

You can file under federal law with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Go to this link and follow the instructions.

At the State Level

You can find your state’s anti-discrimination agency website and contact information in a pdf file created by Legal Momentum starting on page 28. Most of the agencies have a website address that you can copy and paste into your browser. All of the agencies have a phone number that you can call for assistance.

If you live in Pennsylvania, you can file a complaint with the PA Human Relations Commission in Harrisburg. Contact information is available by region.  Just go to their website and look for your county’s name.  The phone number and address for your regional office is listed directly above the names of the counties served by each office.

You should also check to see if your local county, city, or community has an ordinance providing similar protections for wage-based discrimination. You can also file under federal law with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

At the Local Level

There are a few communities throughout the country that have created local ordinances that include the state-based anti-discrimination protections and have also expanded coverage to other areas (such as protections based on sexual orientation, family status, and/or family responsibilities across the life-span). If so, you can more conveniently file a wage-based complaint at the local level. Check with your state’s anti-discrimination agency to see if there is a local ordinance in your community.

In Pennsylvania, there are about 30 communities with such an ordinance. Your regional office of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission can give you this information, along with whom to contact. Check with your state’s anti-discrimination office if you live in another state to determine if your state allows such local ordinances and if such an ordinance exists in your community.

As I just stated, there are about 30 communities in Pennsylvania that have such a local ordinance. One of the most progressive and expansive ordinances is in State College, PA, home of the main campus of The Pennsylvania State University. Their ordinance covers wage-based discrimination based on sex as well as color (race), religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, familial status, marital status, age, mental or physical disability, use of guide or support animals and/or mechanical aids. Four of these categories – sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, familial status and family responsibilities across the lifespan, and marital status—are not covered under state law. State College is the only locality in Pennsylvania (and one of only a handful nationwide) that protects you in employment if you have family responsibilities for adult members of your family whether or not they live in the home with you. If you work within the State College, PA borough, you can file a complaint with the State College Borough under their Employment Anti-Discrimination Ordinance at 814.234.7110814.234.7110 (Side note: I was one of the people instrumental in crafting this ordinance).

If You Want to Support and Advocate for Pay Equity

Both the federal and many state legislatures—including New York and Pennsylvania—are attempting to address the issue of pay equity. I previously summarized what happened in New York with its Women’s Equality Act. The following summarizes the current status of the bills currently moving through Congress and the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

The Federal Paycheck Fairness Act

Ask your Congressional representatives to co-sponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act – HR 377 in the US House of Representatives and both S 84 and S 2199 in the US Senate). The Paycheck Fairness Act updates and strengthens the Equal Pay Act of 1963. It gives women the tools they need to challenge the wage gap itself. HR 377 was introduced in January 2013 and currently has 207 cosponsors; S 84 was introduced in 2013 and has 55 cosponsors; and S 2199 was introduced on 5 days ago and cosponsors are being sought by Senator Barbara Mikulski.

These bills have several different but related requirements. These include:

  • limiting wage differentials to bona fide work-related factors such as education, training, or experience;
  • prohibiting employer retaliation against employees who discuss their wages with each other or who supports and cooperates with a wage discrimination investigation;
  • authorizing the US Secretary of Labor to provide wage negotiation training grants for women and girls;
  • requiring employer-level data collection wages broken down by sex, race, and national origin; and
  • directing the Secretary of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to provide technical assistance to small businesses so that they can comply with this paycheck fairness law.

You can find out where your representatives stand on the Paycheck Fairness Act by going to http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php. In the search box in the middle of the page, type in “Paycheck Fairness Act” and click search.  On the next page, three bills will show up—SR 84, S 2199, and HR 377.  If you then click on “cosponsors” for each bill, you can determine if your representatives are publicly supporting the bill or not. If they are a sponsor, thank them and then ask them to call for a hearing on vote on the bill. If they are not, ask them to sign on.

Pennsylvania’s Workplace Opportunity Act

This bill is a smaller version of the federal Paycheck Fairness Act. Current Pennsylvania law prohibits sex-based wage discrimination between men and women but it suffers from several deficiencies that continue to allow for sex-based wage discrimination. There are two bills in the Pennsylvania General Assembly – HB 1890 and SB 1212. This two bills help to close these loopholes in current state law. Like the federal bill, the Workplace Opportunity Act requires equal pay for equal work. Employers would have to show that that the wage differential is legal if and only if they can demonstrate that the wage differences:

  •  Are not based upon or derived from a sex-based difference in compensation;
  • Are job-related with respect to the position in question, and
  • Are consistent with business necessity.

And again like the Federal bills, retaliation against employees who discuss their wages with each other or who support and cooperate with a wage discrimination investigation would be prohibited

HB 1890 has 54 cosponsors. It was introduced on January 2, 2014 and sent to the House Labor and Industry Committee. Yesterday the prime sponsors of the House bill – Representatives Erin Molchany and Brian Sims—along with Representative Frankel and several of their colleagues held a press conference on this bill. Here’s three short videos from that media event.

During that conference (but not stated in these videos), they announced  that they have introduced a Resolution Petition to Discharge Committee from Further Consideration of this Bill. This is being done because the ranking committee chair is refusing to hold hearings or hold a vote on this bill. Such a resolution is relatively rare, but is used when legislators believe that there is support for the bill by the members of the legislature despite a committee chair’s refusal to consider the bill.

SB 1212 has 18 cosponsors. It was introduces on February 4, 2014. It is currently sitting in the Senate Labor and Industry. Like the HB 1890, it has had no movement in committee. But like most bills, it has not had a “Resolution to Discharge” petition as of today.

If you live in Pennsylvania, you can contact your PA representative and senator regarding pay equity. So, please take time to contact your legislator.  Here’s where to find your legislator’s contact info. And then tell them to bring both of these bills to the floor for a vote.

Finally…For More Information

Visit http://www.pay-equity.org – the website created by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE). NCPE is a coalition of women’s and civil rights organizations; labor unions; religious, professional, legal, and educational associations, commissions on women, state and local pay equity coalitions and individuals.” They are dedicated to ending wage-based discrimination and achieving pay equity.