Equal Pay for Equal Work

The 2012 Equal Pay Day – the point into 2012 that a woman must work, on average, to make the same amount a man did in 2011 – was April 17. Roughly a third of the year has passed and woman have just now caught up. For those wondering why this is a date of significance when women should already be making equal wages compared to men a law that passed almost 50 years ago – we are wondering that too!

Some argue the pay gap is related to women’s life choices, such as education levels, college majors, occupation, industry, hours, previous work experiences, marital status, and children. However, a 2007 American Association of University Women study controlled for each of those factors as well as demographic data, and still found a 5% pay gap between male and female earnings existed one year out of college. Ten years out of college, the “unexplained difference” in pay widens to 12%.

On average, women today make 77 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. For women of color, the pay discrepancy worsens: African Americans women earned 62 cents and Hispanic women 54 cents for each dollar earned by a white man. Nevada women do better than average, earning 83 cents for each dollar earned by their male counterparts, but this is still dismal and of little comfort to struggling families in our state. Nevada women, working full time, lost approximate $2.7 billion last year! For an average-earning family, this gap translates to:

  • Over a year’s worth of food on the table
  • Four months of mortgage and utilities paid
  • Eight months of rent
  • More than two years of family health insurance premiums
  • More than 1,800 gallons of gas

These dismal statistics are evidence that something must be done. In 2009, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act helped protect the victmis of paycheck discrimination by resetting the 180-day statute of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit with each new discriminatory paycheck. The ACLU is working in conjunction with the Obama administration and the Paycheck Fairness Coalition to promote issues of fair pay, including gaining congressional support for the Paycheck Fairness Act. The Paycheck Fairness Act would make it easier for targets of wage discrimination to address the issues by allowing all employees to disclose salary information, requiring employers to show any wage discrepancies are based on genuine business requirements relating to specifics of the position, prohibiting retaliation against individuals who raise wage-parity issues, providing professional development resources for women on negotiating skills, and proposing further research to understand lingering causes of wage discrepancies between the two genders.

In addition, we are also urging the president to sign an executive order banning retaliation for wage disclosure in federal contracting. Knowledge fuels change, and if women don’t know they are paid less than their male co-workers, they cannot fight it. Allowing all employees to discuss their salaries without fear of termination will give women an essential tool for learning if they are receiving equal treatment – that is the first step to fighting against pay discrimination.

40% of women are the primary breadwinners in their homes. These families are earning far less than they deserve – especially in this struggling economy. While Congress remains gridlocked regarding Paycheck Fairness Act, millions of women are waiting eagerly for fair treatment. Help end that wait by urging President Obama to issue an executive order banning retaliation against federal contract employees for discussing their pay.

Retroactive Reclassification Doesn't Reduce Recidivism

At the April 5, 2012, meeting of Nevada’s Advisory Committee to Study Laws Concerning Sex Offender Registration meeting, psychologist Stephan Brake, Ph.D., who has worked extensively with sex offenders, presented a study he conducted analyzing research that has been published on recidivism rates of adult sex offenders. His presentation did not come to any conclusions regarding the recidivism rates of adult sex offenders and seemed to suggest nothing more than that some sex offenders reoffend sometimes. When questioned about the effect of registration on recidivism, Dr. Brake admitted that there was no conclusive evidence that registration had any effect on recidivism. Data like these have been used to base profoundly stricter sex offender registration and reporting laws across the country.

AB 579, which retroactively re-classifies sex offenders into strict tiers based on convictions, was passed in the Nevada legislature in 2008. The ACLU of Nevada, which was represented at the April 5 meeting by Legal Fellow Katrina Rogers, has fought tirelessly to prevent these unconstitutional and punitive laws from being implemented. As of now, there is a permanent injunction in place that prevents these new tier classifications from being used.* However, there is a possibility that AB 579 could be put into effect in the future. At the April 5th meeting, there was discussion regarding proposed legislation that would carve out an exception for juvenile offenders. While this is still in its very beginning stages, the ACLU of Nevada would support such a bill in order to ensure constitutional protections for youth in Nevada.

There is a great need for the ACLU to continue to monitor and influence sex offender laws around the country. The ACLU of Nevada has always stood for the rights of the marginalized and unprotected members of America’s citizenry. The ACLU of Nevada will continue to work hard to protect the rights and liberties of all citizens of Nevada.

*The permanent injunction was lifted by the Court on April 11, 2012.

Several Times a Minute

That’s how many times your cellphone registers its location with cell networks – several times a minute. It’s just how cellphones work, and there’s no way to stop your phone from reporting its location while still getting a wireless signal.

I’m certainly no technophile, but I still have my phone on or near me all of the time. This means that my cell phone is essentially registering my location when registering its location.

Where you go tells so much about what you do, which tells so much about who you are.

Think about what you go in the course of a day, a week, a year. Do you work? Where? Do you drop kids off at daycare? Do you go to church? How often? Do you go to restaurants? Bars? Where do you shop? Do you have hobbies? Do you like sports? Do you visit relatives and friends? Where do you go on vacation and what do you do when you’re there? This is a staggering amount of information, and it is information that the government should not have carte blanch access to.

The ACLU recently conducted a nationwide public records request and found that police in Nevada and across the country are using cell phones to find someone’s location, and sometimes they are not getting a warrant before they do so. Without a warrant, police do not have to show that they have probable cause, allowing the police to search – or, in the case of cellphones, to track – whoever they want whenever they want.

A document released by the Reno Police Department admits that cellphone tracking has been “misused.” The document goes on to say, “Some cell carriers have been complying with such requests, but they cannot be expected to continue to do so as it is outside the scope of the law,” and cautions, “Continued misuse by law enforcement agencies will undoubtedly backfire.” An article in the Las Vegas Sun reports that the North Las Vegas Police Department and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department are using cell phone records to track people, but they only “sometimes” obtain a warrant, according to a Clark County Public Defender.

Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court ruled in U.S. v. Jones that police need a warrant to put a GPS tracking device on a person's car. A GPS device has to be physically attached to a person’s car by the government, but it is limited to tracking where the car goes, as opposed to the incredibly mobile (no pun intended) cellphones.

So why can police use cellphones for locating people without a warrant? The ACLU believes they shouldn’t and supports requiring warrants for GPS and cell phone tracking. We support the GPS Act that is before Congress, which would require law enforcement to get a warrant based on probable cause before accessing location information. Please contact your members of Congress to support the GPS Act.

Since who you are is what you do is where you go, we really need to make sure that information about where you go stays protected.


Going Back in Time

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed major forms of discrimination against African Americans and women, including racial segregation. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public ("public accommodations").

Hmmmm. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements…..This sounds familiar. Very familiar to the voter suppression laws that are being passed all over the country, state by state. In this country, voter suppression laws are potentially limiting the ability of low income, college students, elderly and persons of color, disenfranchised people, the right to vote. Fortunately, Nevada is not one of these states, but the effects of the other states that do have laws are far reaching, and the trend is growing rapidly.

People who do not drive typically do not have a drivers’ license and may not have a state I.D.….many elderly people who no longer drive fall into this category. In looking at the Nevada DMV website, there is a charge of $12 for a new id card if you are between the ages of 18 and 64, and $7 for over 65. In addition, there are several forms of ID acceptable in order to get the I.D., however the majority of them must be certified and issued in the United States. And, if you don’t have them, you have to contact the appropriate vital records office. This sounds fairly easy right? Well, if you don’t have a certified copy of your birth certificate, you can go on line and get one for around $18 or you can write to the department of Vital Statistics in your county. Still sounds pretty easy right? An elderly person, or a person who may be on a very tight budget, or a student has had to spend at least $25 for the right to vote.

Is that a poll tax, or just an incidental fee you have to pay to vote? These voter suppression laws will have negative impact on 5 million people in this country and that is just among the states that have already passed the laws.

In many of the states that have passed laws, there is also a requirement to limit the number of days for early voting. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, huh? When you consider that more and more people are working two and three jobs in order make ends meet, have to deal with daycare issues, are on public transportation and can simply not take time off on one given assigned day to go vote, without serious ramifications, their ability to get out and vote will be severely limited. This will have a major effect on rural areas of the country where people actually have to come into town to vote. Offering more than one day affords them the opportunity to have their vote counted.

What these lawmakers are doing, is in essence, repealing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and making it extremely difficult for certain populations to exercise their voting rights. While these tactics are not as horrific as chasing down people with dogs, jailing and beating them so they can’t vote, they simply take a different form— a current form, a political form, but an institutionalized form none the less, and with the same outcome: to stop people from voting.

Voting rights are just that…a right, and not a privilege. Join the ACLU as it continues to press forward and be the voice of the people whose civil rights are being threatened. Your rights.

Search and Seizure of Student's Medicine Bag

A student doesn’t lose the right to freedom of belief when he or she steps in school. Personal religious expression is protected from government interference through the Free Exercise Clause. Schools, as formative institutions, possess an affirmative obligation to not only adhere to these constitutional principles but also to cultivate respect for their practice. 

However, when a Native American student in the Churchill County High School wore a medicine bag, on two separate occasions, a security guard and a teacher desecrated the medicine bag by searching and seizing it. The student is a member of the Fallon Paiute tribe, and as part of his spiritual practices and beliefs, wears a medicine bag around his neck. The medicine bag is considered a sacred offering to Mother Earth, and acts as a very personal object of spirituality.

The student and his mother reached out to the ACLU of Nevada for help, and we sent a letter to the school on behalf of the student to address the student’s constitutional rights. We explained there is no evidence that wearing a medicine bag has caused or is likely to cause any substantial disruption at school. Therefore, either prohibiting a student from wearing a medicine bag at school or searching its contents “violates his constitutional rights to freedom of belief, expression, and privacy protected under the Nevada State and U.S. Constitutions.”

We also asked Churchill County High School Principal Kevin Lords to ensure that staff respects the privacy of medicine bags, through appropriate trainings and individualized discussions.

Churchill County School District’s response demonstrated a commitment to improve school practices and respect students’ privacy and religious liberty. “Principal Lords was fully aware of the two incidents you described,” the School District stated in a letter, and “Mr. Lords or his designee spoke with the staff member involved individually about the requirements under law and policy for a search of student property to be conducted.” The Principal “trained the whole staff on the requirements for a search of student property” and the District’s Indian Education Liaison will also “instruct the staff at that upcoming staff meeting regarding the treatment and use of medicine bags.”

The ACLU welcomes Churchill County’s willingness to train its staff on the appropriate treatment of sacred spiritual items.

In expressing her thanks to the ACLU, the mother of the young man observed, “Many of the original occupants of this land still practice what our ancestors have given us. I am with sincere gratitude that you and your fellow legal team have heard what I am trying to say and get people to understand. Thank you for your interest & understanding. Change has to start somewhere.”

The ACLU of Nevada is glad that we were able to be a part of this important change.


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