March 8th: International Women’s Day

March 8th: International Women’s Day

The first “National Women’s Day” was observed in the United States in 1909, to recognize the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York.  A year later, Women’s Day was recognized internationally at a conference in Copenhagen, where over 100 women from 17 countries created a worldwide day of celebration to advocate for women’s rights.

In 1917, against the backdrop of the war, women in Russia held demonstrations for “Bread and Peace” and, four days later, the Czar abdicated and the provisional government granted women the right to vote.  The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8, 1975, and since 2001, the holiday has had a sponsored website and theme. This year’s theme? Be Bold for Change.

Although women worldwide have made significant progress since the days of the Russian Revolution, there is still a long way to go.  We would like to use this day to call attention to the some of the issues that remain, the tools available to make change, and how employment law firms like Rukin Hyland & Riggin LLP are fighting to make it happen.

The Wage Gap

As of 2014, a woman working full-time year-round earned an average of 84 cents to every dollar a man earned, across almost all occupations reporting in California. The wage gap is even worse for women of color – for example, Latina women in California make only $0.44 for every dollar a white male makes.

On January 1, 2016, California’s Fair Pay Act took effect. It strengthens the state’s existing equal pay law and seeks to end the gender pay gap. Previously, the law required equal pay for “equal work,” which made it easier for employers to claim that jobs with different titles or job descriptions–but that required the same types of job tasks–were not “equal.” Under the new law, employees who perform “substantially similar work” must be paid the same amount. The Fair Pay Act also allows employees to talk to each other about their wages and ask their employers about wages and prohibits retaliation by employers against employees for exercising their right to seek information about wages.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace 

A recent survey of over 200 women with 10+ years of experience in tech found:

  • 60% reported unwanted sexual advances, with most advances coming from a boss.
  • 1 in 3 have felt afraid for their personal safety due to work-related circumstances
  • 60% who reported sexual harassment were dissatisfied with the course of action
  • 39% who were harassed did nothing because they thought it would negatively impact their career

How Can Employers Prevent Sexual Harassment?

All employers have a legal obligation under California law to prevent harassment and to take all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring. California employers with 50 or more employees must provide at least two hours of sexual harassment training to all supervisory employees.

If sexual harassment occurs in the workplace, your employer may be liable under California and/or federal law depending on the situation. For example, employers are strictly liable for harassment by supervisors. Employers are also liable for harassment by a co-worker or a third party if it knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take reasonable actions once it knows about harassment.

Pregnancy, Family and Medical Leave

The United States is the only developed country in the world that does not guarantee paid maternity leave for its workers.

So, what can we do about it? For starters, we are making strides here on the West Coast. California and San Francisco provide additional protections for pregnant employees, as more fully described in our blog post: What to Expect From Your Employer When You’re Expecting and our eBook on San Francisco’s Paid Parental Leave Ordinance. Pregnant employees also have the right to reasonable accommodations in the workplace related to medical conditions as the result of their pregnancy under both federal and California law.

See Also: Know Your Rights

How Rukin Hyland & Riggin LLP Can Help

It’s important to know your rights as a woman in the workplace. We are here to make sure you are being treated fairly and getting paid rightfully. For more information or a free consultation, please contact one of our sexual harassment lawyers today.