Legal Momentum News Brief—February 12, 2018

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February 12, 2018

Legal Momentum Signs On to Amicus Briefs in Two Critical Cases for Women’s Rights

Legal Momentum has joined numerous other prominent advocacy groups to file amicus briefs in two key cases involving women’s rights. The first case, Feminist Majority Foundation, et al. v. University of Mary Washington, et al., involves gender-based harassment on campus. The second, Legg et al. v. Ulster County , concerns the interpretation and application of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Young v. UPS (2015).

The brief in Feminist Majority Foundation, et al. v. University of Mary Washington, et al., argues that the University, located in Fredericksburg, Virginia, violated Title IX when it failed to take action to address the severe cyber harassment against female students that began soon after they spoke out about sexual violence on campus in 2014. Nearly 50 allies, including organizations dedicated to civil rights, educational opportunities, and gender equality, signed the brief along with Legal Momentum. The brief was drafted by the National Women’s Law Center and law firm Kator, Parks, Weister & Harris, P.L.L.C and submitted to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

The brief submitted to the Second Circuit in Legg et al. v. Ulster County was drafted by the ACLU Women’s Rights Project and the Center for Worklife Law and signed by a coalition of civil rights and gender equity groups including Legal Momentum. The case alleges that a particular policy has a disparate impact on pregnant employees who are corrections officers. The brief highlights that the central purpose of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, as reaffirmed in Young, is to ensure that employers do not disadvantage pregnant workers compared to their non-pregnant peers, and argues that the ruling of the district court should be reversed. Specifically, the brief challenges the lower court's holding requiring the plaintiff not only to demonstrate that the light-duty policy in question had a disparate impact on pregnant workers, but also to further prove that all or most pregnant officers will require light duty to continue working. As the brief argues, this ruling turns the disparate impact analysis on its head, and also ignores the fact that in male-dominated professions, such as corrections, there may never be sufficient numbers of female employees to make such a showing.

Legal Momentum Partners with New York State Secretary of State Rosado

This week, Legal Momentum’s Gender Justice Fellow, Seher Khawaja, and LM’s President and CEO Carol Robles-Román met with New York State Secretary of State, Rossana Rosado, to launch their collaboration on Legal Momentum’s Working Women’s Empowerment Initiative. This new program is designed to empower working women, especially immigrants and those in low-wage occupations. 

Legal Momentum’s Working Women’s Empowerment Initiative, a collaborative project with Cornell’s ILR School, will be issuing the Women’s Economic Empowerment Toolkit, which will provide plain-language legal guidance on a set of 13 rights and benefits related to women’s economic security. Focusing on the same 13 issue areas, the Initiative will advocate for a comprehensive legislative agenda to strengthen protections to ensure meaningful and comprehensive workplace equality for women. The Department of State’s Office for New Americans provides critical tools that help immigrants fully participate in the State’s civic and economic life, including a hotline, workshops, and opportunity centers. During their productive meeting, Legal Momentum and the Department of State identified key strategies for harnessing the State’s existing connections with New York’s immigrant communities to provide much needed guidance on workplace rights to immigrant women.

Fordham Law Debuts the Women’s Leadership Institute

Legal Momentum’s President and CEO, Carol Robles-Román, was featured on a panel at the first annual Women’s Leadership Institute (WLI) at Fordham University School of Law, held at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus in New York City on Friday, February 9. 

The Women’s Leadership Institute, organized by two recent graduates of the Law School, was sponsored by the Law School’s Stein Center for Law and Ethics and Feerick Center for Social Justice. The full-day Institute provided leadership training to female law students, with the goal of delivering useful and practical skills that empower participants to be better equipped to succeed in the practice of law. Because women face the sexism that still pervades the legal profession, and sometimes struggle with confidence, assertiveness, and the ability and desire to lead, the WLI offered with inspiring and constructive advice tailored for young women to address the deficit in leadership training for law students and young attorneys. The panel discussed building robust professional networks, making strategic decisions that advance women’s careers, recognizing and managing the impact of gender dynamics on women’s careers, maintaining work-life balance, and addressing issues unique to female attorneys of color and foreign-qualified attorneys.

Rights Now! Peer Educators Write about Black History Month for Legal Momentum’s Blog

Shanifa Bennett, an LM Peer Educator, gives her poignant point of view on celebrating Black History Month and Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month by writing an engaging essay on Legal Momentum’s blog. Shanifa, a 21-year-old New York City resident, explains how participating in the Rights Now! program gives her the opportunity to educate others. “Knowing there are solutions gives me hope,” she says. You can read the full blog post on Legal Momentum’s website.