Copyright (c) 2007 The Regents of the University of California
Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law
ARTICLE: How Family Leave Laws Left Out Low-Income Workers
28 Berkeley J. Emp. & Lab. L. 1
Ann O'Leary +
News reports abound of women choosing to stay at home with their children rather than struggling with the demands of balancing work and family. 1 The number of women making such a choice is perceived to be so large that the media has dubbed the movement from work to home the "Opt-Out Revolution." 2 This catchphrase is used to describe highly educated professional women who have chosen to leave their jobs to care for their children or to arrange reduced work hours to have more time at home. 3
At the same time that professional women are perceived to be participating in the "Opt-Out Revolution," 4 hundreds of thousands of poor women have entered the low-wage workforce as a result of the federal government's mandatory "opt-in" policy for poor women, otherwise known as welfare reform. 5 Women living in poverty, 6 who could once "opt out" of work to care for their young children, are now required to work while receiving welfare 7 and ultimately to leave welfare permanently with the hope that they will enter the workforce when welfare is no longer available. 8
While highly educated women are opting out and poor women are "opting" in, the federal workplace laws developed to provide job protection and to shield working mothers from discrimination - Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 9 - are proving less effective in protecting ...
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