Equality Works

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Legal Momentum is a leader in promoting opportunity and equality for women in non-traditional job sectors, such as the construction trades and in law enforcement, many of which are high-paying, have career tracks, and provide job security, annual leave, and other benefits. We advocate for policies that improve women’s access to such jobs, support an organized constituency of tradeswomen, and engage in litigation challenging rampant employment discrimination in these jobs.

The U.S. Department of Labor defines a non-traditional occupation as one in which women comprise 25% or less of the workforce; in other words, male-dominated jobs. Most of these jobs pay excellent wages, offer on-the-job training, and often are unionized, providing generous benefits and better job security. Assuring that women gain entry to and advance in these fields is another way of promoting the economic security of women and their families.

Conventional wisdom calls these jobs too dirty for women and questions whether women can do the heavy lifting that some require. That stereotype ignores that women have been doing these jobs for decades. They choose these jobs for the same reasons that men do: they pay well; some don't require a college degree; they are out-of-doors, have flexible hours and are physical.

Legal Momentum's Equality Works Program uses policy initiatives, impact litigation and media advocacy to dismantle the numerous barriers faced by women who seek these job opportunities. We work with developers, contractors, policymakers, and unions to identify and implement equal opportunity practices on construction sites around New York and nationwide.


Discrimination and Sexual Harassment on Non-Traditional Job Sites: Legal Momentum has a long history of successful litigation against employers who have maintained hostile work environments or practiced discrimination in the hiring or promotions process.  We have won settlements for women workers in a number of fields, from construction to aviation, who encountered sexual harassment and discrimination on the job.  Likewise these lawsuits have required employers to change their practices for the benefit of all employees. 

Occupational Segregation and Wages: Gender segregation in the workforce affects women’s economic security.  Women disproportionately hold jobs with lower salaries and fewer benefits while traditionally male-dominated occupations offer higher wages and a career ladder.  In 2008, over 50% of working women were clustered in 4.9% of the Bureau of Labor statistics occupational categories.  Training programs and educational institutions too often reinforce this trend, failing to provide women and girls with the competitive skills needed for a path into non-traditional, well-compensated jobs.

Regulations Addressing Equal Opportunity: Women continue to be almost totally excluded from construction employment and construction apprenticeships.  In 1978, Executive Order 11246  banned employment discrimination by government contractors on federal and federally assisted construction sites.  It also set hiring goals and mandated specific actions to be taken regarding recruitment, hiring procedures, and maintaining work sites free of sexual discrimination and harassment in order to encourage women’s participation in the construction trades.  Such goals have not been revised since 1978: as a result, in June of 2009, women were only 2.7% of the 7.5 million persons employed in the construction occupations.

Updating and Enforcing Regulations: The Department of Labor’s must both update equal opportunity regulations, and back up those updates with clear enforcement provisions, penalties and the addition of incentives.  The current regulations should be rigorously enforced now while the regulations are being updated. In order to eliminate the barriers that women face in obtaining higher-wage, non-traditional occupations, the DOL must prioritize the enforcement of current and future equal opportunity provisions as well as update their regulations, particularly those applicable to the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the Office of Apprenticeship and the Employment Training Administration.

Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP): Women seeking success in the construction industry need immediate enforcement of the regulations already in existence as well as updated regulations.  The OFFCP is charged with ensuring that contractors or subcontractors receiving federal money do not discriminate against their employees or potential employees. Executive Order 11246 requires that all contractors receiving more than $10,000 in federal funding agree to adhere to an affirmative action plan—which includes a construction workforce participation goal of at least 6.9% for women. A lthough failure to comply is a breach of contract warranting a range of sanctions including contract termination, construction companies within the scope of 11246 have rarely been investigated by the OFCCP.

Office of Apprenticeship: The Office of Apprenticeship sets the labor standards for apprenticeship programs through the National Apprenticeship Act and the accompanying Equal Opportunity Standards.  The current regulations address many of the barriers women face in accessing and staying in nontraditional apprenticeship programs.   However, lack of vigorous oversight and enforcement perpetuates the low numbers of women apprentices.

Employment and Training Administration (ETA):  For the most part, job training programs have only served to reinforce occupational segregation. The Workforce Investment Act (“WIA”) provides training to men and women, yet far fewer women are trained for nontraditional employment: in 2008, about 55% of all men received training through WIA in the category “Installation, repair, production, transportation, material moving,” while about 8% of women received such training and almost 50% of women received training in service, sales and clerical occupations.  The average post-training earnings exceeded $13,500 for male exiters from each of the top eight occupations of training for men.  By contrast, average post-training earnings were less than $12,000 for female exiters from six of the top eight occupations of training for women.  The ETA administers federal job training programs and has jurisdiction over enforcing statutes with the potential to provide the kind of on-the-job training and support necessary to foster and promote retention of women in nontraditional occupations.  It is essential for the ETA to devote substantial resources to developing the appropriate technical assistance and enforcement mechanisms for workforce development providers, that will recognize and remedy the occupational training disparities that perpetuate the wage gap.  

Featured Resources

Featured Resources
Featured Resources
Featured Resources
  • Letter to Congress: Oppose H.R. 1 Cuts to Employment and Training Programs - A letter from Legal Momentum and like-minded allies asking Congress not to cut employment and training programs in H.R. 1, the House-passed FY 2011 Continuing Resolution. March 2011

  • Reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act - Legal Momentum urges Congress to improve and reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). WIA offers an opportunity to ensure that federal job training policy actively contributes to providing women and their families with a route to economic self-sufficiency during the current recession and beyond. March 2010

  • Federal Policies Have Failed to Reduce Significantly Women’s Exclusion From the Construction Trades - Over 30 years ago, the U.S. Department of Labor revised its regulations to establish specific affirmative standards for women in federal or federally assisted construction. Despite these revisions, women continue to be almost totally excluded from construction employment and construction apprenticeship.nd construction apprenticeship. August 2009

  • Testimony to the New York State Assembly on the TANF-Funded Welfare to Work Program - Testimony to the New York State Assembly on the TANF-Funded Welfare to Work Program and Career and Technical Education. November 2008

  • From the Ground Up: Building Opportunities for Women in Construction - This report stemmed from Legal Momentum's ground-breaking conference, Women re:BUILD NY, which brought leaders from all segments of the construction industry together with tradeswomen to focus on making equal opportunity a reality for women in the construction trades. January 2008

  • Assuring Equal Opportunity for Women in Construction: Checklist for Developers - Promoting equal employment opportunity (“EEO”) on construction sites begins with developers conveying their EEO commitment from the very first bid solicitations. This checklist provides developers with an easy-to-use guide to EEO obligations and monitoring. January 2007

  • Assuring Equal Opportunity for Women in Construction: Checklist for Construction Workforce Monitors - The success of workforce participation goals for women depends on a concentrated effort by all parties in a systematic approach that translates the workforce goals into on the ground worksite action. This checklist provides the construction workforce monitor with an easy-to-use guide to monitoring workforce participation goals. January 2007

  • Assuring Equal Opportunity for Women in Construction: Model Collective Bargaining Agreement Language and Model Equal Employment Opportunity Policy - This fact sheet details the key provisions that should be included in any union collective bargaining agreement or equal employment opportunity policy to ensure that employers meet equal employment opportunity standards for women and that work environments are free of harassment and other discrimination. January 2007

  • Assuring Equal Opportunity for Women in Construction: Checklist for Communities - Construction work, especially union work, has long been a pathway to economic self-sufficiency. All community members deserve to be a part of construction projects in their community. This checklist details explicit goals, actions, reporting and accountability measures that must be part of the construction contract and training negotiations. January 2007

  • Equal Opportunity Monitors: A Comparative Analysis of Selected Successful Programs - This fact sheet explains how the use of equal opportunity monitors on large-scale, publicly-funded construction sites around the country helped assure relatively high numbers of women workers on those sites. January 2005

  • Model Construction Contract Provisions Concerning Equal Employment Opportunity for Women - This fact sheet details the key provisions that should be included in any contract or subcontract to assure that women are recruited aggressively and that their work environments are free of harassment and other discrimination. January 2005