Friday, January 30, 2009

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

The first piece of legislation signed by our new President represents a victory for women and families. Yesterday, Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The law changes the statute of limitations in filing a complaint about unfair wages.

The law was passed in response to a Supreme Court ruling in 2007 in the Ledbetter v. Goodyear case. In that ruling the Supreme Court rejected Ledbetter's claim of pay discrimination because they said she failed to file her complaint within six months of the first act of discrimination. Ms. Ledbetter did realize the pay disparity between her and her male counterparts until years after she had been promoted into management.

The new law basically states that the statute of limitation 'clock' renews every time someone receives a paycheck. As a result, If you learn about a pay disparity years after a promotion, as long as your last paycheck was within the past six months, you can still make a claim. Read more on Yahoo News.

This legislation is important because employers work hard to make sure employees are not aware of the salaries of their peers. Most companies don't want employees discussing their pay for many reasons such as a fear that employees will use this information to negotiate for better salaries. As a result, many women do not find out that they are paid less than their male peers until well after a promotion (that is, if they ever find out). This law provides more incentive for employers to pay fairly because the consequences of an act of discrimination do not fade as quickly.

For women looking for flexible work, it is important to remember that there should not be a penalty for working in a flexible work arrangement. That is, you should be paid for getting your work done. Flexible work should not be considered a "perk" that you get in lieu of fair compensation. If you cut back to part-time, your pay rate should be reduced proportionately. If you cut back your hours 20%, your pay should be reduced 20%. Further, if you stay in a full-time role, your pay should not be cut at all just because you work a flexible schedule. If you are doing the same job, you should receive the same pay.

Our rights are only protected under employment discrimination laws if we exercise them. If you feel that you may have been discriminated against in your pay or other condition of employment, learn about your rights from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Are you willing to leave?

I recently ran in to another working mom who I haven't seen in awhile. She let me know that her employer was finally letting her work from home a few days a week. Her hour commute was making it almost impossible to pick her kids up from day care on time and she had been asking to telecommute for a long time.

I wish I could say that her employer finally 'got it' and figured out that allowing her to work from home was a good business decision. Because she doesn't have to rush to get her kids, she probably will actually be working more. And without office distractions, she will probably be working more efficiently most days. Not to mention the improved productivity that will most likely result because of her improved attitude toward her work. She already is less stressed and appreciates the new arrangement.

But, as happens so frequently, the company only offered her the telecommuting option after she told them she was planning to leave. Faced with losing her talents, the company finally determined they could allow her to work from home.

Being willing to leave is your last option in negotiating for flexibility. But if you want to ask for flexibility and are commited to your request, you have to be willing to leave. Now I am not suggesting that you start the negotiation with 'give it to me or I'll leave.' But, in your mind you must be so commited to your requested change that you will look for another opportunity if you must. If you start the negotiation then you must be wiling to see it through until the end.

Unfortunately with the economy as a whole not doing so well, many companies are cutting back and unemployment rates are up. Your willingness to leave does not have as much leverage if you are easily replaced. But now is the time to begin planning your strategy if you want flexible work. The time to ask may not be just yet, but starting to work to build your business case for flexibiity will get you moving in the right direction.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mom as a hero

Tonight I caught an episode of Dateline on NBC which featured stories about ordinary people who do extraordinary things to save others. In one story, two bystanders helped a police officer who was struggling with a man trying to take her gun. One of the bystanders was a busy mom who stepped away from putting her groceries in her car to help save this police officer by jumping on top of, and restraining the man.

Her response to the recognition: "I don't feel like a hero. When you have five kids and you get through each day, it's heroic. You don't have time to think, you either do or you don't and I am a doer. "

So imagine, comparing wrestling an armed criminal to managing a typical day with five kids. Well, I only have two kids, but some days I feel the same. They say that the skills you develop as a mom can help you. I always thought that meant you can apply what you learn as a mom to the workplace and be a better employee, but perhaps it just means that being a mom will make you be a better person.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

New resource for moms

I am happy to be snug inside as temps are in the negative double digits in my neighborhood tonight! Although, I am sorry to be missing the launch party for My Work Butterfly, a new website for moms.

The website founders, Terry & Bradi, have put together an impressively comprehensive website. According to the ladies, "My Work Butterfly is a social networking community designed to help return-to-the-workforce moms find their ideal job - their paradise - and to guide those seeking work / life flexibility. This niche social networking site aims to connect savvy moms on this journey by sharing advice, support and ultimately, solutions."

The website includes opportunities for discussion, lots of advice and resources, and an impressive job posting board. Check it out!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA)

The CPSIA is a law of concern to parents that becomes effective February 10th, 2009. It was passed in response to consumer concerns of lead in toys and other toy safety issues from the past few years. While most agree that the intent of the law is good, some of the regulations are creating a concern for parents.

The main objection to the law is that it applies to not only new childrens clothes and toys, but also to clothes and toys that are re-sold. That includes kids' resales, garage sales, eBay and consignment shops, which will all be required to comply with the law.

While I haven't read the full regulations, those who have believe that this law will make it difficult for parents to sell their kids' stuff on eBay, at consignnment shops or via any formal channel. While the law does not prohibit such sales, it does require costly saftey testing which will likely make it unprofitable to resell kids' items.

The implicaiton for parents could be significant. First, many rely upon the opporutnity to resell their kids' things as a stream of extra income. Second, many parents rely upon resale to allow them to buy the clothes and toys at affordable prices.

Particularly in a time of economic challenges, the ability to both buy and sell kids's stuff is important. Further, in a time when we are focused on being "green," the idea that more stuff will be thrown out instead of used again is quite unwelcome.

Learn more about the law at

Learn what you can do to save kids' resale opportunities at:

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Saving money in 2009

I have been home with the kids the last few weeks and have just been a spending machine. My free time has led me to find more time to spend money. Much has been on entertaining. We've caught up with lots of friends and I also took the kids on some outings. I'm not one to spend much money on clothes, but a few shopping trips fit into my schedule over my break. I also found a few household projects that needed attention.

This is another reason why I am glad to be working. We would be broke if I was at home full-time. Not just becuse of my loss of income, but also because of the time available to spend money. Working keeps me too busy to think about things I "think" I need. Instead, I minimize time spent shopping and as a result, minimize my spending.

As many families face tough financial times, the new year is a good chance to review spending habits. Here are a few ideas on cutting back:

- Think Used. In a time that we are all trying to recycle more, why not consider buying more used items? From cars to clothes- you can find pretty much anything used these days. One of my best dressed friends finds many of her clothes at a consignment shop. I often find books for my kids at library book sales. You can find kids clothes at garage sales and special kids re-sale events.

- Look for the deals. Take some time to read through store fliers and clip coupons to find the better prices. We have a friend who treats grocery shopping like a deal finding challenge. Each week he makes his list and then reads the grocery fliers to see who has the best deals on his needs. He also puts his pre-teen daughters to work clipping coupons and organizing their shopping. They usually have to hit 2 or more grocery stores, but he estimates that they save $50-100 a week on their grocery bills.

- Pack your lunch. Eating lunch out, even if it is just fast-food, can add up quickly. Packing your lunch just a couple of days each week can save you hundreds each month.

- Borrow instead of buy. How many times have you thought you needed something, only to spend the money and realize you don't? For example, my mom was thinking about buying a portable CD player to listen to audio books while she worked around the house. Instead of buying one, I suggested she borrow mine for a few weeks to see if she liked it. She found out that she never really used it and saved herself from an unnecessary expense. The library is also a good source of savings. You can borrow books, DVD's, CD's and sometimes even toys. The kids get the variety they want without you purchasing items that would eventually be set aside anyway.

- Go to the store with a list. Browsing while shopping leads to poor decicions. Make your list of what you need and stick to it. I just made this mistake today. I had a gift certificate to use and went to the store to buy a new sweater for work. I found myself checking out the jewelry and of course found something I couldn't live with out. Had I stuck to the sweater department, I wouldn't have spent the extra money.

- Pay with cash. If you use cash instead of credit so you pay closer attention to how much you spend. You also don't spend money that you don't have. I have been doing this lately and it really does affect how you think about spending. I've put needless items back on the shelf at the grocery because I know I do not have enough cash with me.

These are just a few ideas. The key is to be consciences of what you are spending. You would be suprised at how much money you can save if you just pay attention and make an effort.