Beto O’Rourke unveiled Wednesday a plan aimed at guaranteeing women’s equality in the workplace, featuring proposals that would mandate equal pay, require accommodations for pregnant women and reduce child care costs.
The former Texas congressman’s plan comes a week before 12 Democratic candidates meet in Ohio for their fourth presidential debate, hosted by CNN and The New York Times.
In a Medium post, O’Rourke’s campaign said he would champion the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, which would guarantee equal legal rights regardless of gender.
His plan builds on a series of proposals O’Rourke has offered before, including protecting abortion rights. O’Rourke says in his plan that he would appoint judges who believe in a constitutional right to abortion.
He would also seek a series of legislative changes focused on abortion rights, such as: prohibiting insurance companies from refusing to cover abortions; repealing the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal dollars from paying for abortions through programs like Medicaid; and blocking the sorts of laws aimed at reducing abortions that Republican-led state governments have implemented in recent years, such as mandatory waiting periods and ultrasound requirements before women are allowed to have abortions.
O’Rourke’s plan also includes proposals aimed at protecting transgender women, a topic he frequently brings up on the campaign trail. Among those proposals are: requiring the Justice Department to investigate violence against transgender women of color; requiring law enforcement officers to receive bias training; making it easier for trans people to change their name and gender on legal documents; passing the Equality Act; and reversing President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender military service.
Most of O’Rourke’s women’s equality plan focuses on the workplace and health care.
O’Rourke would guarantee paid family leave and sick leave. His plan would mandate up to 12 weeks of at least partially paid family leave, and up to seven paid sick days per year. Businesses would also have to pay workers for being on-call and allow workers to ask for flexible schedules – steps aimed at protecting people from last-minute scheduling decisions.
He would use federal money to provide maternal health and child care in “deserts,” areas of the country that lack enough licensed facilities, including college campuses.
In the workplace, O’Rourke would require “the same sorts of reasonable accommodations” for pregnant employees that businesses have in place for disabled workers. He would also back legislation that makes it easier for women to report workplace harassment and extend those protections to domestic workers by recognizing them under federal labor law.
O’Rourke’s plan also says he would push Congress to pass the “Paycheck Fairness Act,” which includes a series of measures aimed at ensuring women are paid as much as men. This would include prohibiting companies from seeking salary histories, which could be used to offer women lower pay; protects workers who discuss how much they are paid with other employees; and requires businesses to prove that pay gaps are based on the jobs employees are doing.
He would also require part-time workers – who O’Rourke’s campaign says are predominantly women – to be paid as much as full-time employees. Businesses would also have to offer those part-time workers the same package of benefits, “prorated to reflect the hours part-time workers work.”