Workers, elderly focus of Women Summit initiatives

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President Barack Obama makes a point at the United State of Women Summit on June 14.
President Barack Obama makes a point at the United State of Women Summit on June 14.

A new coalition to advocate for paid and unpaid caregivers, new legal assistance for victims of elder abuse, new materials describing women's rights to employers and employees, and updated regulations related to sex discrimination in the workplace all were announced Tuesday in conjunction with the United State of Women Summit in Washington, D.C.

“We've got to retool our system so that modern families and modern businesses can thrive,” said President Barack Obama, one of dozens of speakers and presenters to address the approximately 5,000 people in attendance and those watching online. Equal pay for equal work, a higher minimum wage, paid family and sick leave, paid maternity and paternity leave and affordable child care policies will help employers attract high-quality workers, he added.

The event, convened by the White House Council on Women and Girls that Obama established shortly after assuming the presidency in 2009, gathered domestic and international experts, advocates and grassroots and business leaders to highlight key issues affecting women and girls and best practices for the future. Plenary and breakout sessions addressed topics including economic empowerment, health and wellness, educational opportunity, violence against women, entrepreneurship and innovation, and leadership and civic engagement.

Who Cares Coalition

Through the new Who Cares Coalition, nonpartisan think tank New America, advocacy group Caring Across Generations and online marketplace Care.com will spearhead a movement aimed at redefining the cultural norms, behaviors, business practices and policies related to caregiving in the United States.

“Child and elder care are key to the economic growth of our country and the wellbeing of our families, but too often, we overlook the needs — and vital economic and social contributions — of paid and unpaid caregivers,” the White House said about the effort in a fact sheet announcing initiatives timed for launch in conjunction with the Summit.

The coalition, according to its website, will work for transparency in costs, quality and availability of care; changes to the industry standard of treatment and pay; and workplace policies that alleviate pressure on working families.

New resources against elder abuse

Also coinciding with the United State of Women Summit, the Department of Justice and the Corporation for National and Community Service, through its new Elder Justice AmeriCorps partnership, announced $2 million in grants to provide legal assistance and support services to victims of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation, the majority of whom are women.

“The grant to Equal Justice Works will be the first-ever army of new lawyers and paralegals to help victims of those who prey on our nation's elders,” the White House said.

The new program will support 300 AmeriCorps members, serving through Equal Justice Works, over the next two years in Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Washington, D.C. The members are expected to serve more than 4,000 older adults each year by providing screenings for abuse, neglect or exploitation; referrals to support services for abuse or neglect; and legal services. Additionally, AmeriCorps members are expected to leverage 300 community volunteers, who will provide specialized legal services to older adults who have been victims of abuse, neglect or exploitation.

EEOC materials for employers

Also timed with the Summit, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission released new documents about the rights of women in the workplace. The materials cover equal pay and the EEOC's proposal to collect pay data, legal rights for pregnant workers under federal law and helping patients deal with pregnancy-related conditions and restrictions at work.

“The commission has provided these informational resources to help women better understand their rights in the workplace and promote compliance by employers,” EEOC Chairwoman Jenny R. Yang said.

Updated sex discrimination regulations

The Department of Labor also announced the publication of new sex discrimination regulations that update, for the first time in more than 40 years, the department's interpretation of Executive Order 11246, which prohibits companies with federal contracts and subcontracts from discriminating in employment on the basis of sex.

The final rule, to be published in the Federal Register, updates the sex discrimination regulations of the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to make them consistent with current law. It makes explicit the protections against compensation discrimination; sexually hostile work environments; discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions; and discrimination based on unlawful sex stereotypes, gender identity and transgender status. The regulations also promote fair pay practices, according to the department.

Read about other announcements made in conjunction with the Summit in the White House fact sheet.

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