Pennsylvania in Action!There's a drama unfolding in PA right now. Watch history in the making. Read about it on our PA blogs: Joan - Kiki - Cooper
SIGN THE PETITION: Help make history first in Pennsylvania, and then across the nation, by building momentum to end discrimination against mothers! (No matter where you live, your petition signature is very helpful--it puts the Pennsylvania legislators on notice that the nation is watching). And if you have friends, or family, in Pennsylvania, please ask them to sign on too!
MAKE A CALL, MAKE A DIFFERENCE: Help pass a bill to stop hiring discrimination against mothers in PA before it dies in committee!
#1 - Do you have kids? How many do you have?
#2 - Are you married?
If you were asked these questions during a job interview, which questions do you think are illegal in Pennsylvania?
The answer is none of them are illegal. The current PA Human Relations Act has not been amended since it was enacted in 1955.
Yes, it's perfectly legal to discriminate against mothers in Pennsylvania, and dozens of other states, by denying them employment based on marital and childrearing status...AND IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME! Check out Kiki's true life story of discrimination and courage.
WE CAN FIX THIS: Currently there are two bills in Pennsylvania, HB352 and SB440 that if passed, would add language to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to make it illegal for employers to ask job candidates questions regarding their marital/familial status.
In order to get this legislation passed, your help is urgently needed as these bills will die at the end of the legislative session in November 2006.
- Step One – The bills need to move out of the committees that they have been assigned. Even if you don't live in Pennsylvania, to show support and encourage movement of this legislation, telephone calls or e-mails need to be made to the following chairmen asking that they move these bills to the floors for a vote:
*PA State Senator John R. Gordner, chairman Labor & Industry Committee
Phone: 717-787-8928; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
*PA State Representative Dennis O’Brien, chairman of Judiciary Committee
Phone: 717-787-5689; e-mail: email@example.com
- Step Two – Once the bills get to the floor for a vote, they must be passed by the members of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. It is very important that if you live in Pennsylvania, you contact the senator and representative from your individual district. Ask them to please vote yes on these bills. (If you need to find contact information on your senator and representative, you can get this at:http://www.legis.state.pa.us/index.cfm)
YOUR CALL WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN PENNSYLVANIA, AND IN DOZENS OF OTHER STATES AS THEY FOLLOW PENNSYLVANIA'S LEAD
***********KIKI'S STORY: GETTING REAL IN PA***********
A single mother of two, Kiki moved to a small, one stoplight Pennsylvania town in 1994. She was truly on her own. Her husband had left several years earlier, when her children were two and four years old.
Kiki hadn’t known how she’d make it as a single parent until her mother, a petite powerhouse and survivor of a World War II Russian gulag, stepped in to help. But when Kiki’s mother passed away a decade later, there was nothing to keep Kiki in the Long Island city where she’d been living.
The rapid property tax increases in Kiki’s carefully landscaped neighborhood of gorgeous Cape Cod homes were quickly exceeding her economic reach as a single working mother. So Kiki left in search of a smaller city with a lower cost of living.
With this move, Kiki and the kids were alone in a new town that had just two supermarkets and several diners serving a variety of aromatically enticing pork, sauerkraut, and dumpling dishes. It was just the change she wanted. Kiki was able to buy a Dutch Colonial Cape Cod house at the top of a “small mountain” in the Poconos with nearly two acres of land for a fraction of the price of her old house. It seemed ideal, until she started looking for a job to support her family.
"DO YOU HAVE CHILDREN?" On a hot, humid August day, at an interview for a legal secretary position in a one-story brick building, Kiki sat down in a hard wooden chair to face a middle-aged attorney ensconced behind a mahogany desk. His framed diplomas lined the walls, and legal books filled the shelves behind him. Kiki remembers the attorney clearly, even his general height at 5'10" and the color of his light brown hair. The interaction was significant enough to remain seared in her mind’s eye a decade later. “The first question the attorney asked me when I came in for the interview was, ‘Are you married?’ The second was, ‘Do you have children?’”
It was the eleventh job interview in which she’d been asked the very same questions since moving to Pennsylvania. After answering eleven times that she wasn’t married, and that yes indeed, she was a mother of two, Kiki began to understand why her job search was taking so long.
She decided to address the issue head on this time, “I asked him how those questions were relevant to the job, and he said my hourly wage would be determined by my marital and motherhood status.” Kiki then asked the next obvious question: “How do you figure out an hourly wage based on these questions?”
THIS CAN'T BE LEGAL! (BUT IT IS): His response was as candid as it was horrifying, “He said if you don’t have a husband and have children, then I pay less per hour because I have to pay benefits for the entire family.” The attorney noted that a married woman’s husband usually had health insurance to cover the kids, and since Kiki didn’t have a husband, he was very clear that he “didn’t want to get stuck with the bill for my children’s health coverage.”
Kiki started to get angry, “The weather was warm, and it was warm in the office, and then when I got angry it got a lot warmer!”
It was the first time Kiki pushed for an explanation, and she was appalled by the answer. “I said to him, ‘You mean to tell me that if I am doing the exact same work, typing the same exact subpoena as a coworker, you’re going to pay me less because I have no husband and have kids?’ And he very smugly told me, ‘Yes, absolutely.’”
He couldn’t do that, it was illegal, Kiki wondered, wasn’t it? The attorney countered that it was perfectly legal—and as an attorney, he ought to know. He invited Kiki to check out the law herself and then ushered her out the door (without a job, of course).
Furious, Kiki went straight home, her black and silver 1989 Chevy Blazer hugging every curve as she drove up the winding road to her house. She got out of her car, stomped across the crushed stone pathway to her front door, flung her canvas purse on the couch, and called the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. She found out that the lawyer was right. The questions were legal, as was paying a single mother less than other applicants.
Pennsylvania, like scores of states, does not have state employment laws that protect mothers.
THE SAD TRUTH: The sad truth is that Kiki isn’t struggling alone. Recent Cornell University research by Dr. Shelley Correll confirmed what many American women are finding: Mothers are 44 percent less likely to be hired than non-mothers who have the same résumé, experience, and qualifications; and mothers are offered significantly lower starting pay (study participants offered non-mothers an average of $11,000 more than mothers) for the same job as equally qualified non-mothers.
The “maternal wall” is a reality we must address if we value both fair treatment in the workplace and the contributions working mothers make to our economy.
MOVING TO THE PRESENT: After a very rough time landing her first job in Pennsylvania, Kiki has been fully employed for over a decade. Her children are now grown and she is terribly proud of them. As a single mother with a full-time job it would have been easy, and vastly more comfortable, for her to forget the humiliation of ending up on welfare, but she didn’t. She never wants her daughter to suffer the same discrimination that left her unemployed and dependent on government subsidies and food stamps.
So Kiki has been working with the non-profit organization, 9 to 5 National Association of Working Women, for over a decade advocating that Pennsylvania pass a law to protect single mothers like her from bias in hiring. They haven’t succeeded yet—and neither have people in more than half of the states in our nation, which also leave mothers unprotected from discrimination based on their marital/familial status during job discussions. This problem is bigger than Pennsylvania.
Kiki hasn’t given up. October 2005 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act legislation that Kiki is working to amend so mothers can’t be asked questions about their marital and childbearing status in job interviews.
WORKING FOR CHANGE: This particular amendment has been stuck in a legislative committee for the past three legislative sessions. To commemorate the Golden Anniversary date, as well as to draw attention to the languishing amendment, Kiki went to a local party store after work one day and purchased stationary decorated with golden balloons and ribbons. She then brought her new purchase back to the home office she shares with her cat, Eddie, and went to work.
Kiki’s home office is sparsely decorated with oak furniture, a purple rug, and the electronic devices needed to for advocacy: computer, fax, scanner, and printer. Copies of the state house and senate amendments are carefully tacked on her bulletin board along with prized pictures of her daughter’s college graduation and her son’s wedding. And a special place is reserved for the card she got from her daughter with a picture of Rosie the Riveter that says, “We Can Do It.”
In this office, surrounded by oak bookcases filled with papers, letters, and over a decade of advocacy history on this legislation; and comfortably situated in her favorite yard sale find, a purple secretary’s chair, Kiki drafted the text for the golden stationary that she would mail to all the state legislators in Pennsylvania: “You are cordially invited to end discrimination against Pennsylvanians in the job hiring process. October 27, 2005 marks the 50th Anniversary of the enactment of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.”
The letter goes on to describe history of the bill and the last line says, “On this Golden Anniversary of this Act, I cordially invite you to please vote YES to eliminate discrimination against the people of Pennsylvania based on their marital/familial status. Please vote YES when this bill comes before your committee for a vote and please vote YES when the bills are passed on to the floor for a vote.”
Kiki recalls, “To make it look like a party invitation I put an RSVP with my phone number at the bottom. I received a total of six phone calls; one of which was an aide to say her boss could not attend. I said, ‘Well, if you read it carefully, then you would see that it’s not a party, it’s a request for help.” Kiki then asked the aide to please read it again and ask her boss for help. The other calls Kiki received from legislators were all favorable, but the amendment still didn’t move forward.
THE FIGHT CONTINUES: The fight continues, and while Kiki keeps advocating for the amendment to move out of committee with the help of organizations like 9 to 5 and the Pennsylvania Commission for Women (a state commission enacted by the governor), she’s been gathering together with friends to knit scarves for mothers who are visiting food pantries.
“We get hammered with ‘Toys for tots, toys for tots!’ but moms are left out,” comments Kiki. “These scarves are going to be infused with love for women we don’t know, but who are just like I was. I figure that if I can’t stop the job discrimination right now, then at least I’ll knit some scarves to keep them warm.” Kiki thinks for a moment and then says, “But why not give the gift that will last all year which is dignity, and do this by getting involved in politics and putting pressure on the legislators to make anti-descrimination bills a reality?”
Kiki's encountered more than a few people who are astonished to hear her story, “Many people can’t even fathom that we live in a society that is so cold and callous against mothers that they are deterred from getting jobs simply because they have children. But just because it isn’t happening to you, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. And that’s the truth of it. When people start talking about these issues and realizing how backwards we can be in terms of keeping up with the times, then changes will happen.”
YOU CAN HELP: There are women, men, and parents like Kiki working on important family issues across our nation. Just like Kiki, all need our help and support to move these issues forward. By coming together we can help make the changes necessary to level the playing field and support America families.