Fall 2013 Update

In this issue:

CWLC is working every day to serve women veterans and ensure that they have access to the services and benefits they have earned.

Pregnant Students
Fighting against discrimination, CWLC enforced Title IX and fought for a pregnant student who was barred from attending class.

New Staff
CWLC welcomes two new staff members to our team to bolster our communications and organizational development.

CWLC History
Twenty years ago, CWLC was instrumental in establishing guidelines to create gender equity in the LAPD.

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Executive Director’s Message

It has been a busy year for the California Women’s Law Center as we work to ensure the needs of women and girls are being met. Our priorities remain gender discrimination, women’s health, violence against women, reproductive rights, Title IX and the needs of women who have served this country. Thank you to everyone who has supported our mission as your assistance allows us to continue to address these important issues.

We recently launched a new website and we have been very active on social media. Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook, so that you are aware of the work our staff attorneys are involved in as they travel the state to participate in trainings, meetings and speaking engagements to educate and collaborate with stakeholders and policymakers. Please do not hesitate to share any events or activities with us where you believe our participation could further our mission to support women and girls.

Thank you to everyone who will be joining us for the CWLC Speaker Series with constitutional scholar and founding UCI Law School Dean, Erwin Chemerinsky on November 19th. We are excited about the level of interest and support this sold out event has generated. We are all looking forward to a compelling evening as he addresses “Women’s Rights and the Roberts’ Court.”

Finally, the month of November is dedicated to our veterans and the sacrifice they have made for our freedom. Please join with the California Women’s Law Center as we reflect on the value of our service members and the challenges they face when they return home. Supporting female veterans remains a priority for CWLC and we look forward to working with you to address the needs of women veterans and their families.

With gratitude and appreciation,

Betsy Butler

Bea Cohen and Nancy Sumner at POJ Awards

Serving Our Veterans

As our country collectively honored the service of our veterans on November 11th, we want to take the opportunity to thank those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom and highlight the unique challenges many female veterans face when they return home. Our gratitude goes out to veterans Nancy Sumner and Bea Cohen (pictured above at our 2013 Pursuit of Justice Awards) for their service to our country. Bea, at 103, is California’s oldest female veteran and Nancy is a retired Air Force Colonel. On Veterans Day and everyday, we recognize and are grateful for the essential role our veterans play in maintaining our country’s freedom and it is important that we do all we can to support them as they transition back from active service.

For the last couple of years, CWLC has focused our attention to the unique legal challenges facing women veterans. In our effort to ensure that all women veterans receive the support and benefits they have earned through service, CWLC has taken on several projects. We are identifying and eliminating barriers to healthcare for female veterans, providing support for women who suffer from Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and are being discharged from the military as a result of this trauma and we are spearheading efforts to provide sex-segregated housing for homeless women veterans. Working in partnership with our allies and coalition members, we have learned a lot about the needs of female veterans including the fact that they are more likely to be victims of MST and not feel safe in spaces with male veterans out of fear of sexual violence.

With this in mind we will continue to advocate for, support and listen to California’s female veterans throughout the year as we fight to secure benefits, address responsibilities associated with childcare, protect against sexual violence and work to remove other barriers in their transition back to civilian life.


Supporting Pregnant Students

This past September, CWLC learned about a student who was prevented from taking classes and graduating because she was pregnant. Unfortunately, situations like these still occur all too often in California to women like Tiffany Rollins, a student in the Veterinary Technology Program at Yuba College. Ms. Rollins contacted CWLC and we were able to assist her and provide a path to complete her coursework and graduate. Thanks to CWLC’s intervention, she earned an Associate of Science Degree in Veterinary Technology and graduated on time. Ms. Rollins was the victim of unlawful sex discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title IX and other civil rights statutes. During her last semester in the Veterinary Technology Program, Ms. Rollins was forced to drop out of her classes because she was pregnant. Citing the need to protect her “developing fetus,” program administrators barred Ms. Rollins from her classes, which would have prevented her from graduating with her class as planned. After filing a complaint with Yuba College administrators, Ms. Rollins was allowed back into her classes for a short time only to be dismissed again for a litany of reasons unrelated to her pregnancy.

CWLC was able to assist her by making sure Title IX was enforced. Title IX requires schools to treat pregnant students in the same manner as their non-pregnant peers, without discrimination or harassment. Under Title IX, pregnant students have the right to remain in school and cannot be excluded from any program, class or activity because of their pregnancy and are protected from retaliation for complaining about sex discrimination. Tiffany shared,

“Pregnancy should not interfere with a woman’s education. No one should be able to prevent a student from having a family and pursuing an education.”


CWLC Welcomes New Board Members

Mayra Fornos

Mayra Fornos started her own firm to represent the profoundly injured and disabled. In memory of her husband, Mayra founded Ralph’s Riders Foundation which provides individuals with spinal cord and other life-altering injuries with a support system, peer counseling and resource information.

Edie Mermelstein

Edie Mermelstein operates her own practice litigating consumer and employment class action suits as well as trust and financial elder abuse cases in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Edie dedicates a meaningful portion of her practice to pro bono work and is a champion for the underserved. She also founded the Breast Cancer Angels’ Pro Bono Legal Program.

Pamela Palmer

Pamela Palmer is a litigation partner at Latham & Watkins specializing in complex business litigation, with extensive experience defending clients in securities class actions, derivative suits, merger and acquisition litigation, fiduciary and business judgment cases, including matters in federal and state courts and government enforcement agencies. Pamela served as a law clerk for the Ninth Circuit of Appeals.


Sweetwater Update

CWLC staff lead by Legal Director Vicky Barker and Senior Staff Attorney Cacilia Kim joined our partners the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center (LAS-ELC) and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP continue work on our groundbreaking suit to bring the Sweetwater Union High School District into compliance with Title IX.

Since filing our brief in opposition to the appeal in the Ninth Circuit we have also filed a motion to compel compliance with the injunction in the District Court and conducted several visits to inspect the school site. In addition, CWLC attorneys met with the Magistrate Judge regarding a joint compliance plan. We are awaiting the District Court’s ruling on our motion to compel compliance with the injunction as well as on the remaining disputed issues in the compliance plan.

At our latest inspection in September, CWLC and our partners noticed improvements to several aspects including the softball dugouts. However, there is still a great amount of work to be done to bring the district into compliance. We will continue our fight for equality for female athletes.


Two New Staff Members Join CWLC

The California Women’s Law Center is proud to announce the addition of two new staff members, Andrew DeBlock and Laura Herrera.

Andrew DeBlock

Andrew brings a diverse set of perspectives to the Law Center as our new Communications Director.

Previously, he served as a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs and as the Deputy Director of Convention Operations for the Obama Victory Fund. He also worked in the California State Legislature as the Senior Field Representative for Assemblymember Betsy Butler. Prior to joining CWLC, Andrew worked as a Finance Operations Consultant for the Presidential Inaugural Committee in Washington, DC and was the Political Associate for Wendy Greuel’s mayoral campaign. He currently sits on the board of the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law in Los Angeles. Andrew graduated from Occidental College and received his Masters of Public Administration from the University of Southern California.

Laura Herrera

As the new Development Associate, Laura has dedicated her professional life to giving her community and the undeserved a voice. She currently serves as the Chair of the Huntington Park Planning Commission, the Vice President of Operations for the Stonewall Young Democrats and the President of Planned Parenthood Young Professionals. Previously, Laura worked as the Constituent Case Manager for Assemblymember Betsy Butler and as Campaign Manager for the Re-Election Campaign of Huntington Park Mayor Andy Molina and Vice Mayor Elba Guerrero. Laura graduated from Loyola Marymount University and is fluent in Spanish.


CWLC History

20 Years Ago…

..in October 1993, the Women’s Advisory Council to the Los Angeles Police Commission submitted “A Blueprint for Implementing Gender Equity in the Los Angeles Police Department.” CWLC’s Jenifer McKenna co-chaired the advisory council along with Katherine Spillar from the Feminist Majority Foundation, Penny Harrington, former Portland Chief of Police and Constance Rice, then representing the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

The Blueprint recommended immediate gender balancing for all Police Academy classes, eliminating sexual harassment, creating enhanced accountability, ensuring promotions are based on performance and the expansion of pilot programs designed to better respond to domestic violence calls.

The expansive report identified areas of improvement during the career of an LAPD officer including recruitment, training, promotions and performance evaluations.


CWLC in the Community

Legal Aid Association Training

The Legal Aid Association of California hosted the “2013 Traveling Training” in San Diego on Monday, October 28 in San Diego, CA. CWLC staff attorney Cacilia Kim joined Kathleen West from the Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families for a panel entitled “Legal Challenges Facing Women Veterans and Military Connected Families.”

Title IX and Immigration Training

Cal-SAFE San Diego, in conjunction with the California Women’s Law Center and the Legal Aid Society of San Diego (LASSD), hosted a training titled “Title IX, Minor Consent, Immigration, The Dream Act” on Tuesday, November 5 in Escondido, CA. Cacilia Kim presented with Miko Tokuhama of LASSD.

Speaking Engagements

CWLC staff members have been speaking at conferences across the state. On September 26th, Cacilia Kim presented at a workshop on the legal challenges facing returning female veterans at the 2013 CalVet Women Veterans Leadership Conference in San Diego. The same weekend, CWLC Legal Director Vicky Barker participated on a panel at the California Wellness Foundation in San Jose to discuss pay equity, Title IX and sexual assault in the military.


The New CWLC Website is Online

We are excited to announce the launch of the redesigned California Women’s Law Center website. Please visit cwlc.org to explore the new site.

CWLC is also active on Twitter and Facebook where you will find current information about our projects and can follow our staff as they travel across the state participating in coalitions and meetings with stakeholders and policymakers.

Follow us on Twitter @cwlc_la and like us on Facebook.