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The Daily Californian, UC Berkeley's student newspaper, chronicles the women's field hockey team's two-year fight for equitable treatment. 

In 2014, UC Berkeley revoked the team's on-campus practice and competition field privileges to construct a practice field for men's football and lacrosse. ERA has proudly stood with the team for two years while promises to quickly provide them with a new on-campus field were delayed and broken by the administration.  

“I felt helpless, then I got mad. Because the only alternative is to keep fighting,” coach Onstead said. “So that was the lesson. And that’s what we did.”

the-fight-for-a-field

 

 

 

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California’s worker’s compensation system is plagued by gender discrimination and bias that results in reduced benefits for women workers and a devaluation of women across our state.

That is why this week, alongside Public Counsel, Caldwell Leslie & Proctor PC, and Professor Catherine Fink of the University of California, Irvine School of Law, we filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of a group of women workers and the SEIU California State Council.

By distributing worker’s compensation benefits on the basis of sex, California sends a message that women workers, and their contributions to the workplace, are less valuable. For example, a woman past child-bearing age who undergoes a mastectomy due to work-induced breast cancer is entitled to zero permanent disability benefits for the loss of her breasts. Meanwhile, male employees receive a 16-20% disability rating for prostate cancer, regardless of age.

We are hopeful that this lawsuit and public exposure of the discrimination in California’s worker’s compensation system will result in change.

Read the press release here and learn more about the case in USA Today, Inc., New York Magazine and Slate.

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May 17 marked an important day for the women of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. After a five week-long trial, a jury found that Annica Hagadorn, Jodi Mendonca, Traci Keillor, and Dawn Douglas had suffered retaliation for speaking out about discrimination in the department.

After complaining internally about gender and race discrimination in promotions and preferential treatment towards a female deputy who was romantically involved with a male manager, the careers of all four women were stalled and derailed. They were subjected to punitive investigations, passed up for promotions, and reassigned to undesirable positions that hindered their advancement in the department.  

Equal Rights Advocates was proud to assist plaintiffs’ counsel of the Law Offices of Jerry Chong and Alice Wong and Minami Tamaki LLP in this important case.  We hope that their victory at trial sends a strong message to women working in law enforcement and other male-dominated industries that they have the right to a safe and fair workplace, and that their voices will be heard.

“My former co-workers and I were fearful when we first decided to stand up to what was happening at the Sheriff’s Department, especially because people inside our workplace warned us that no one would take us seriously,” said plaintiff Jodi Mendonca. “But this verdict shows that people DO take retaliation and discrimination claims seriously. I couldn’t be prouder of myself, and of my co-plaintiffs, Annica, Dawn, and Tracie, for having the courage to speak the truth even when it wasn’t clear anyone would listen.”

Collectively, the four plaintiffs were awarded more than $3.5 million in economic and non-economic damages.

“This verdict and case show why it is so important to have strong laws outlawing retaliation for opposing discrimination in the workplace, especially in highly male-dominated industries and occupations, like law enforcement, where women are highly vulnerable to harassment and too often absent from positions of leadership,” said Jennifer Reisch, Legal Director at ERA. “But they also show that laws are only as strong as the men and women who are courageous enough to enforce them. We are grateful for our clients’ tenacity in holding a public institution like the Sheriff’s Department accountable and making sure that other women don’t face the same barriers to success.”

To learn more about how women in non-traditional occupations and highly male-dominated industries are disproportionately harmed by systems of oppression and sexism, read ERA’s report on the history of sexual harassment in the workplace.

“We are incredibly proud of the long road our clients have traveled to justice. Through it all, they believed that taking a stand against the Sheriff’s Department was the right thing to do, even though it was hard,” said Lisa Mak, Minami Tamaki LLP. “It’s our hope that this victory will show members of law enforcement – both men and women – the importance of speaking out, telling their stories, and vindicating their rights in the workplace,” added Jerry Chong, of the Law Offices of Jerry Chong and Alice Wong.

Congratulations to these brave women on a significant victory!

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Aviles plaintiffsAt Equal Rights Advocates, our clients are everything. We have had the honor and privilege of representing Janet Aviles, Stephanie Jackson, Jamieka Brown, and Kel Sharpe for the past three years in a class action lawsuit against BAE System Norfolk Systems, Inc. On February 10, 2016, their journey for justice ended with a historic settlement that will benefit hundreds of women.

This case challenged gender discrimination and harassment in a highly male-dominated, multi-billion dollar industry that has been the backbone of the economy in the Tidewater region of Virginia for many years. At the Norfolk shipyard, where the plaintiffs have worked for nearly 30 years, men consistently outnumber women 15 to 1. Not a single woman has served in a management position at the shipyard in those 30 years.     

Facing routine workplace sexual harassment and discrimination in promotions, Janet, Stephanie, Jamieka, and Kel stood tall for what they believe in and knew was right. They spoke out fearlessly against injustice, even though they knew it could cost them the jobs they loved and the livelihoods that supported their families.

Last month, a judge approved the settlement of their case. Under the settlement terms, BAE Systems will pay more than $4.6 million, which will benefit nearly two hundred women who have worked at the shipyard. BAE Systems has also agreed to make significant changes to workplace policies, procedures, and training protocols to combat discrimination and harassment. These changes will continue to benefit the many more women – and men – who will work at the shipyard in the future.

This suit and the settlement were historic firsts on many levels.

This was the first Title VII class action ever to be settled or certified in the Norfolk division of the Eastern District of Virginia since the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964. It was the first class action to be brought or settled in the Eastern District since the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Dukes v. Walmart Stores (2011), a decision that imposed stricter standards for class action litigants challenging workplace injustices.  

It was also the first class action to be certified and approved by the Honorable Arenda Wright Allen, an appointee of President Obama who became the first African-American woman federal district judge in the commonwealth of Virginia.

“To hear and see Judge Allen commending these gracious and powerful women, congratulating them in her courtroom on their achievement, was both moving and humbling,” said Legal Director Jennifer Reisch, who worked closely with the women of BAE.

Congratulations to Janet, Stephanie, Jamieka, and Kel. It has been an honor to stand by you.

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The Daily Californian, UC Berkeley's student newspaper, chronicles the women's field hockey team's two-year fight for equitable treatment. 

In 2014, UC Berkeley revoked the team's on-campus practice and competition field privileges to construct a practice field for men's football and lacrosse. ERA has proudly stood with the team for two years while promises to quickly provide them with a new on-campus field were delayed and broken by the administration.  

“I felt helpless, then I got mad. Because the only alternative is to keep fighting,” coach Onstead said. “So that was the lesson. And that’s what we did.”

the-fight-for-a-field

 

 

 

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In the News: The Fight for a Field

December 5, 2016 | by

The Daily Californian, UC Berkeley’s student newspaper, chronicles the women’s field hockey team’s two-year fight for equitable treatment.  In 2014, UC Berkeley revoked the team’s on-campus practice...
read more

New Case: Gender Discrimination in CA Worker’s Comp System

July 7, 2016 | by

California’s worker’s compensation system is plagued by gender discrimination and bias that results in reduced benefits for women workers and a devaluation of women across our state. That is why...
read more

A Win for the Women of the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department

May 19, 2016 | by

May 17 marked an important day for the women of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. After a five week-long trial, a jury found that Annica Hagadorn, Jodi Mendonca, Traci Keillor, and Dawn...
read more

Historic Win for the Women of BAE Systems

March 14, 2016 | by

At Equal Rights Advocates, our clients are everything. We have had the honor and privilege of representing Janet Aviles, Stephanie Jackson, Jamieka Brown, and Kel Sharpe for the past three years in a...
read more