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Each day when I sit down in my office with a warm cup of coffee, I fix the photo on my desk of my two girls. I look at the sea of folders and papers in front of me, certain that justice is defended here. Throughout my day, I consider civil rights cases that must be filed. I handle calls about legislation that will help the communities my organization serves. For many years, I assumed this was my space – and that good things happen here. Most of us probably feel the same.

Fourteen years ago, Maria Bojorquez walked into my office. Maria is a mother, an immigrant, and a janitor. She cleans buildings just like mine in San Francisco. The personal story she shared reminded me that our offices change late at night. They are not safe spaces for everyone. Our offices are often where female janitors like her can be rubbed against, groped, attacked, violated, and threatened.

I am heartened to see the #MeToo movement come to workplaces across the country. My resolve and dedication to this work is affirmed with each request for sexual harassment trainers and while reading company proclamations of zero tolerance for sexual misconduct. 

But what happens when we all leave at night? What about when the lights are dimmed and women like Maria are left isolated with sexual predators in our offices?

Female janitors are mobilizing and organizing to eradicate sexual harassment and violence in their workplaces – and they’re winning. The best solutions to combat the violence experienced in some of our workplaces come from women workers themselves, a lesson we’ve learned through representing, training, and partnering with janitors.

Since Maria walked into my office 14 years ago, Equal Rights Advocates filed suit against the company that protected her assailant and Maria found justice 11 years later. We will continue to bring cases on behalf of women like her across the country because sexual assault is not the price of a paycheck.

And we are not stopping in the courts. Three years ago, we joined workers, advocates, and unions to form the Ya Basta coalition. Buoyed by the compelling PBS Frontline documentary Rape on the Night Shift, featuring the story of Maria and other janitors, we partnered with worker leaders to pass the first law specifically designed to protect janitors from sexual violence - and it's already benefiting 220,000 janitors in California. The Ya Basta coalition is training dozens of promotoras to build the power of women worker leaders and to ensure the law is implemented in worksites across the state. We intend to scale up our efforts nationally so that every one of the nation’s 2.1 million janitors feels safe when they go to work.

Women janitors are building a movement – one that we are proud to be a part of. If you want to be sure your office is safe for everyone, join us today. Because Maria’s workplace is #OursToo.

Sign up for updates about the Ya Basta Coalition and other work of Equal Rights Advocates to eradicate sexual violence in the workplace here

And be sure to check out the compelling updated version of PBS Frontline’s Rape on the Nightshift airing tonight. This updated version features leaders of the Ya Basta Coalition, including ERA Legal Director Jennifer Reisch.

 

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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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Each day when I sit down in my office with a warm cup of coffee, I fix the photo on my desk of my two girls. I look at the sea of folders and papers in front of me, certain that justice is defended here. Throughout my day, I consider civil rights cases that must be filed. I handle calls about legislation that will help the communities my organization serves. For many years, I assumed this was my space – and that good things happen here. Most of us probably feel the same.

Fourteen years ago, Maria Bojorquez walked into my office. Maria is a mother, an immigrant, and a janitor. She cleans buildings just like mine in San Francisco. The personal story she shared reminded me that our offices change late at night. They are not safe spaces for everyone. Our offices are often where female janitors like her can be rubbed against, groped, attacked, violated, and threatened.

I am heartened to see the #MeToo movement come to workplaces across the country. My resolve and dedication to this work is affirmed with each request for sexual harassment trainers and while reading company proclamations of zero tolerance for sexual misconduct. 

But what happens when we all leave at night? What about when the lights are dimmed and women like Maria are left isolated with sexual predators in our offices?

Female janitors are mobilizing and organizing to eradicate sexual harassment and violence in their workplaces – and they’re winning. The best solutions to combat the violence experienced in some of our workplaces come from women workers themselves, a lesson we’ve learned through representing, training, and partnering with janitors.

Since Maria walked into my office 14 years ago, Equal Rights Advocates filed suit against the company that protected her assailant and Maria found justice 11 years later. We will continue to bring cases on behalf of women like her across the country because sexual assault is not the price of a paycheck.

And we are not stopping in the courts. Three years ago, we joined workers, advocates, and unions to form the Ya Basta coalition. Buoyed by the compelling PBS Frontline documentary Rape on the Night Shift, featuring the story of Maria and other janitors, we partnered with worker leaders to pass the first law specifically designed to protect janitors from sexual violence - and it's already benefiting 220,000 janitors in California. The Ya Basta coalition is training dozens of promotoras to build the power of women worker leaders and to ensure the law is implemented in worksites across the state. We intend to scale up our efforts nationally so that every one of the nation’s 2.1 million janitors feels safe when they go to work.

Women janitors are building a movement – one that we are proud to be a part of. If you want to be sure your office is safe for everyone, join us today. Because Maria’s workplace is #OursToo.

Sign up for updates about the Ya Basta Coalition and other work of Equal Rights Advocates to eradicate sexual violence in the workplace here

And be sure to check out the compelling updated version of PBS Frontline’s Rape on the Nightshift airing tonight. This updated version features leaders of the Ya Basta Coalition, including ERA Legal Director Jennifer Reisch.

 

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Maria’s Workplace is #OursToo: Stopping the Epidemic of Sexual Violence Against Female Janitors

January 16, 2018 | by

Each day when I sit down in my office with a warm cup of coffee, I fix the photo on my desk of my two girls. I look at the sea of folders and papers in front of me, certain that justice is defended...
read more

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