Monday morning I had the honor of observing the oral arguments for Vance v. Ball State at the United States Supreme Court. At issue in the case was how courts should define “supervisor” for the purposes of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination, including sexual harassment. This definition is important because it determines when an employer—in this case, Ball State University—will automatically be held liable for harassment perpetrated by an employee.
The plaintiff in the case is Ms. Vance, a catering assistant at Ball State University, who was the only African-American employee in her division. She alleged that she was threatened and called racially-motivated names by her immediate supervisors, and she suffered greatly because of it. However, Ms. Vance lost her case against the university when the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that for the purposes of Title VII, supervisors only include those people who can hire and fire employees. The individuals who harassed her did not have this authority, though they did oversee her day-to-day work. This decision reflects a continuing split among Circuit Courts, as other courts have held that supervisors should also include day-to-day supervisors.
Last month, Pennsylvania provided increased protection for domestic violence victimsliving in affordable housing in the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program (LIHTC). The LIHTC program uses federal tax credits to incentivize the development of low-income housing, and each state, through Housing Finance Agencies, administers the program on behalf of the federal government.
The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency made history in September when it released its 2013 Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP). The QAP establishes Pennsylvania’s requirements for administration of the LIHTC program in the state. One line in the 27-page document has the potential to have a big impact for victims of domestic violence: “Experience as of [sic] victim of domestic violence alone may not constitute good cause for eviction under the terms of the lease.” This change to Pennsylvania’s LIHTC administration has been long advocated for by two local organizations that work directly with LIHTC renters—Community Legal Services and Regional Housing Legal Services.
In 2011, more than one in five women was poor in Mississippi (22.3 percent) and Louisiana (20.6 percent). Only one state, New Hampshire, had a poverty rate of less than ten percent for women, at 8.9 percent. In the other 47 states and the District of Columbia, between 10 and 20 percent of women lived below the poverty line.
In 2011, more than half of female-headed families with children were poor in Kentucky (51.3 percent), Louisiana (50.3 percent), Mississippi (51.8 percent), and West Virginia (51.6 percent). In eight more states (AL, AR, ID, MI, NM, OH, SC, and TN), their poverty rates were 45 percent and above.
If you follow our blog, you already know that the 2011 poverty data were released by the U.S. Census today. The data show that more than 46.2 million people, or 15 percent of all Americans, were considered poor in 2011. Notably, there was no statistically significant change in the poverty rate from 2010—meaning that, unlike the past few years, poverty did not rise in 2011. Poverty among women and children, though higher than poverty among men, was also essentially unchanged in 2011. While it is a relief that the rate hasn’t increased for most groups, poverty still remains historically high.
So what’s the encouraging part? Government programs are keeping people out of poverty. Social Security alone prevented more than 21 million people, including 1.1 million children, from falling into poverty last year—no small feat for a 77 year old program. It’s also important to remember that the Census data is based on incomes that do not include non-cash benefits like food stamps (SNAP) or tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). If the value of SNAP benefits were counted as income in 2011, 3.9 million people would not have been considered poor, and accounting for the EITC would have lifted 5.7 million people above the poverty line.