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Sophia Elliot: Staff Attorney at Women’s Law Project

The Women’s Law Project provides a variety of legal services to women in Pennsylvania to advance their rights, advocate for policy changes, and provide necessary support. WLP has been fighting gender bias and discrimination for nearly 50 years and has played a critical role in making the state a safer place for women and LGBTQ+ communities. Learn more about their impactful work here!

Can you tell me about the key areas that WLP focuses on?


The Women's Law Project advances the rights of girls, women, and LGBTQ+ people in Pennsylvania. Although we are a state-based nonprofit, our work goes beyond that to help all women. We focus on anywhere there is discrimination and find ways to improve the lives of women through representation, policy, advocacy work, and education. That includes issues like increasing reproductive rights, advancing the rights of incarcerated women, and protecting the rights of pregnant and lactating workers and students.


What are some of the cases you’ve worked on?


Our Legal Navigator Program, which is what I work on, helps pregnant and postpartum women understand their rights and benefits. Many women need very reasonable accommodations like a chair at work or access to water, especially in physically demanding jobs. Pregnant workers and students are often in situations where their employer or school is not willing to accommodate them, and laws like the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act ensure that these women have the necessary accommodations to continue working, earning an income, and maintaining access to their benefits. We also advocate for a paid parental leave state insurance plan. Since the U.S. doesn’t have paid parental leave, it’s up to the states to ensure that access is available. A lot of my work is making sure that everyone in the state is covered by a patchwork of laws at the local level.


Can you tell me about your representation work?


Programs like Legal Navigator focus on early intervention because by the time women are seeking representation, something has likely already gone terribly wrong. Once that happens, it’s really difficult to make someone whole again. We help people navigate this complex web of laws to try to prevent it from getting to a point of litigation, but we will provide representation if that occurs. Every situation is unique depending on the employer and location, and it can be stressful to understand when our clients should be focused on their health. I assist clients in accessing their rights and getting the necessary documentation to request accommodations. Our goal is to keep women employed— no woman should have to choose between keeping her benefits and keeping herself safe.


What is the best part of your job?


It’s amazing to work alongside other advocates and professionals who are championing the same goals as I am. I get to work with healthcare providers and other lawyers to create a vision for the future. I talk to employers who want to learn how to improve their policies to best support their workers. When we all work together, we can create an environment that is conducive for new parents to maintain employment. The marginalization of pregnant people doesn’t get the same attention as other areas of discrimination, but it’s vital that we prioritize safe working environments for them. I’m very lucky to meet so many incredible people, hear their stories, and help them create a personalized plan.

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