Wendy Pollack is the founder and director of the Women’s Law and Policy Initiative at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law. Under Wendy’s direction, the WLPI draws on the experiences of women and girls and brings those experiences to the forefront in the Shriver Center’s analysis of poverty and the development of solutions to end poverty permanently. Wendy has worked extensively on public benefits and work supports, economic and workforce development, education, employment, family law, gender-based violence, the application of international human rights to domestic issues, and other issues affecting low-income people on the local, state and federal levels. Before coming to the Shriver Center in 1996, she worked on the welfare law team at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago and as a neighborhood staff attorney in its Englewood office. Before becoming a lawyer, Wendy was a union carpenter and cofounder of Chicago Women Carpenters in 1979 and Chicago Women in Trades (CWIT) in 1982.
Throughout her legal career, Wendy has engaged in a range of strategies, including litigation, and administrative and legislative advocacy. Prior legislative successes include the Family Violence Option in the 1996 federal welfare law; incarnations of the Violence Against Women Act; and state laws such as the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act; the Safe Homes Act; pregnancy accommodations in the Human Rights Act; and the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights. Local government successes include both the Chicago and Cook County minimum wage and paid sick leave laws.
Last year Wendy drafted, negotiated, and successfully advocated for several pieces of legislation at the state and local levels, including strengthening the state Equal Pay Act to bar employers from asking job applicants their salary history; a state sexual harassment omnibus bill that includes, inter alia, the extension of harassment and discrimination protections to contract employees, the clarification that discrimination based on an actual or perceived protected class is actionable under the Illinois Human Rights Act and that harassment based on any of the protected classes in the employment context is actionable, and an amendment to the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA) to extend protections to victims of gender-related violence; an increase in both the Illinois and Chicago minimum wage to $15; and the Fair Workweek Ordinance.
Wendy and her coalition partners made significant progress on the state Ensuring Success in School Law, which focuses on the safety and educational success of K-12 students who are parents, expectant parents, or survivors of gender-based violence. Wendy also continues to fight the attack on federal laws and regulations by the Trump Administration, particularly relating to gender-based violence and employment. Wendy’s current legislative agenda includes a state paid sick leave bill, paid family and medical leave, and the elimination of the subminimum tipped wage.
Wendy currently serves on the Illinois Council on Women and Girls, the City of Chicago’s Status of Women and Girls Working Group, the Illinois Commission on the Elimination of Poverty, the National Task Force on Tradeswomen Issues, and the Chicago Jobs Council board. Honors include recognition in March 2019 by Governor Pritzker for contributions made to Illinois to advance the values of equity and equality for women and girls; the Harvard Law Society of Illinois; the National Legal Aid and Defender Association’s Kutak-Dodds Award; the Chicago Bar Association’s Alliance for Women’s Founder’s Award; A Long Walk Home’s Community Partner Award; the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network’s Community Advocate Award; the Chicago Foundation for Women’s Impact Award, Women Employed’s Champion for Change Award; Chicago Job Council’s Volunteer of the Year Award; the UN Women National Committee Chicago Chapter recognition for work on gender equity; and the Southwest Women Working Together Compassion Award. Wendy’s most recent publication is Ensuring Success in School, Supporting Survivors in December 2018.
The Founders Impact Award recognizes the lifetime achievements of an individual who has made significant contributions toward the advancement of women and girls for thirty years or more.
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