Molly Redden

Molly Redden

Reporter

Molly Redden is a reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. Previously, she worked for The New Republic, covering energy and the environment and politics, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Her work has also appeared in Salon, Washington City Paper, and Slate. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and watching too much television. She tweets at @mtredden.

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Molly Redden is a reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. Previously, she worked for The New Republic, covering energy and the environment and politics, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Her work has also appeared in Salon, Washington City Paper, and Slate. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and watching too much television. She tweets at @mtredden.

Alabama DA Drops Effort to Send Man Who Raped 14-Year-Old to Prison

| Mon Mar. 10, 2014 12:56 PM PDT

Facing an uphill battle in the state supreme court, an Alabama district attorney has dropped his effort to put a man convicted of raping a 14-year-old behind bars. The News Courier reports that Limestone County District Attorney Brian Jones has decided not to challenge the state appeals court ruling that allowed Austin Smith Clem to avoid prison time for his three rape convictions. "After consultation with the victim and her family, we have decided not to pursue a petition for writ of mandamus to the Alabama Supreme Court," Jones told the News Courier. "Courtney Andrews has shown immense courage and tenacity during this ordeal. My hope is that, through her example, other victims of sexual offenses will find the courage to speak out and to come forward with these crimes."

Read our earlier coverage of the Clem case here and here.

 

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Pregnant? Your Boss May Have It In For You

| Mon Mar. 3, 2014 8:05 AM PST

Employers who illegally fire workers for being pregnant often attempt to skirt discrimination laws by smearing the employees as tardy, poor performers, or by chalking up their termination to company restructuring—even in cases where worse-performing employees, who were not pregnant, were allowed to remain on staff, and "company restructuring" turned out to be code for replacing pregnant workers.

That's according to a new study by sociology professor Reginald Byron of Southwestern University in Texas and Vincent Roscigno, a professor at Ohio State University. Their research, which will be published in the June 2014 issue of Gender & Society, is a major investigation into the phony justifications that employers who discriminated against pregnant workers gave to employees before firing them.

Byron and Roscigno examined 85 confirmed cases of pregnancy discrimination processed by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission for most years from 1986 to 2011. They found that pregnancy accounted for 40 percent of gender-related terminations. In around 30 percent of those cases, employers told the pregnant women that they were being fired for performing poorly; another 15 percent were let go for tardiness.

But a closer look at their workplaces found that pregnant employees were placed under greater scrutiny than their non-pregnant coworkers. Many pregnant women in Byron's sample, he writes, "identified other non-pregnant workers in their workplaces who had, for instance, more absences, less seniority, lower job performance or more workplace infractions, but who were not sanctioned or pushed out at all." But even in those cases, he says, pregnant women who had been fired were typically unable to win back their employment.

Byron notes,

Pregnant women, in these employer accounts, are presented as undependable workers because of physical limitations or violations of attendance and tardiness policies. Such concerns may, at face-value, seem legitimate in a business sense. However, the same policies and rationales were not invoked in the case of non-pregnant employees (including those with worse records of performance, attendance, tardiness etc.). Employers also contend that their decisions really have little to do with the pregnant employee herself and, instead, mostly concern workplace restructuring, cost savings and/or the inability to bear financial cost relative to accommodating particular employee needs.

In another 10 percent of cases, pregnant women were told that they were let go for business reasons unrelated to their performance. That, too, often turned out to be demonstrably false. In one case Byron and Roscigno write about, employers fired a pregnant assistant restaurant manager, saying that the company needed to reduce its assistant managers from three to two for cost-cutting reasons. But the company quickly hired a man to fill her position after letting her go.

Stories like these lead Byron, who is conducting a similar study of four other states, to conclude that pregnancy-related firings can stem from stereotypes about the abilities of pregnant workers. "Without attending to such cultural and structural power imbalances and the relational processes that undergird them, pregnancy discrimination will remain a significant problem," he writes.

Alabama Man Convicted of Raping 14-Year-Old Continues to Avoid Prison Time

| Fri Feb. 28, 2014 10:17 AM PST

An Alabama man who was punished with only probation for three rape convictions in a case involving an underage girl does not have to serve prison time, a state criminal appeals court ruled Friday.

In September, a local jury found Austin Smith Clem, 25, guilty of raping his teenage neighbor three times—twice when she was 14, and once when she was 18.

Clem was convicted on one count of first-degree rape and two counts of second-degree rape. In November, a judge sentenced Clem to a mere three years of probation, touching off a national outcry and prompting Limestone County District Attorney Brian Jones to make a series of legal moves to ensure that Clem would be incarcerated. Friday's order is a response to Jones' second request that the court find that Clem's sentence was illegally lenient.

Under the appeals court's Friday decision, Clem will serve the punishment he was handed by a county judge when he was resentenced December 23—five years of probation, and prison time of up to 35 years if he violates the terms of his probation.

In November, Limestone County Circuit Judge James Woodroof, the judge in Clem's case, sentenced him to a total of 40 years in prison. But Woodroof structured the sentence so that Clem would only serve three years of probation and two years in a community corrections program designed for nonviolent criminals. While on probation, Clem is free to live at home with his wife and three daughters.

"After consultation with the victim's family, we are in the process of examining our legal options," Jones wrote in an email to Mother Jones.

Clem's lenient sentence caused national outrage. His victim, Courtney Andrews, appeared on Melissa Harris-Perry's MSNBC show to call for a tougher punishment. Shortly after the original November sentencing, Jones filed a petition for a writ of mandamus with the Alabama Criminal Court of Appeals. In the petition, Jones argued that Clem's sentence was illegal under Alabama sentencing statutes. The appeals court agreed, and in early December, it ordered Woodroof to mete out a stiffer penalty. In response, Woodroof increased Clem's probation to five years.

After that, Jones filed a second petition calling for Clem to be sentenced to prison time.

In a response Friday to Jones' petition, presiding Judge Mary Becker Windom wrote that Jones "cannot satisfy the heavy burden" needed for the appeals court to compel Woodroof to alter his sentence of late December.

Remarks made by Clem's defense attorney in November have compounded the outrage over the lenient sentence. Clem's attorney, Dan Totten, told Mother Jones that while Clem's punishment "would seem to be relatively mild," in actuality, "it's not a slap on the wrist."

"His lifestyle for the next six years is going to be very controlled," Totten continued. "If he goes to a party and they're serving beer, he can't say, 'Can I have one?' If he wanted to go across the Tennessee line, which as the crow flies is eight or nine miles from his house, and buy a lottery ticket, he can't do that."

Although he did not call any witnesses at trial, Totten accused Andrews of inventing rape accusations as revenge against Clem for breaking off their consensual affair. Totten also noted that he and the judge, Woodroof, are childhood best friends.

"I want to applaud the courage of Courtney Andrews and her family throughout this entire ordeal," Jones added on Friday. He would not comment on his office's next course of action, saying that now, "we work on Plan C."

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