Tschiderer '12 Receives EJW Fellowship to Help Low-Income Mothers Facing Workplace Discrimination
Christine Tschiderer, a 2012 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, has been selected to receive a prestigious Equal Justice Works Fellowship to help low-income working mothers who have experienced discrimination in the workplace.
For her two-year fellowship, Tschiderer will launch a new project at the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs that will represent working mothers facing pregnancy or caregiver discrimination.
"My project is designed to address these issues holistically, so I will provide direct representation to help women request and negotiate for family-related accommodations and also engage in education and outreach to increase awareness of legal protections for working mothers," Tschiderer said.
Tschiderer's fellowship, which will be sponsored by the law firm Crowell & Moring, is one of approximately 50 awarded by Equal Justice Works, a national organization that supports recent law school graduates who have developed new and innovative legal projects that can impact lives and serve vulnerable communities in need of legal assistance. Fellowship recipients receive a salary, loan repayment assistance, training and additional support.
Tschiderer is one of two Equal Justice Works fellows from UVA Law to be named this year. Sabrina Talukder, who will graduate this spring, will use her fellowship to help noncitizen survivors of sex trafficking and domestic violence. (More)
Tschiderer, who is currently clerking for Judge Stuart Nash at the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, said she was thrilled when she heard that she was being named an Equal Justice Works Fellow.
"I couldn't believe that I was being offered my dream job just two years out of law school," she said. "I feel incredibly fortunate and I keep pinching myself."
Tschiderer has been interested in the difficult choices facing working mothers ever since she majored in Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University. And, she added, she has always been driven to improve the lives of children and families.
"Over time I've come to realize that one of the best ways to support strong and healthy children is to advocate for working mothers, who serve as breadwinners or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of American families today," she said. "Working women provide crucial financial and emotional support to their families, yet too often low-income women who are pregnant or caregivers face losing their jobs to care for their families."
She said she realized there was a particular need for lawyers to represent low-income working women.
"Although much of the work/family debate has focused on issues facing middle- and upper-class women who are struggling to balance demanding careers and family obligations, low-income mothers have no choice but to work and yet they are often targeted for harassment and poor treatment in the workplace," she said.
While at UVA Law, Tschiderer participated in the Child Advocacy Clinic, in which law students represent low-income children across Virginia who need legal representation. The clinic, she said, was an invaluable experience that taught her how to build relationships with clients, develop a case strategy and think outside the box in terms of advocacy.
Andy Block, director of the clinic, said he was lucky enough to work with Tschiderer for two years, first as his research assistant and then as a clinic student.
"She will be one of those rare and sought-after attorneys who can handle all aspects of litigation at an extremely high level," Block said. "She is a strong written advocate, engaging and reassuring with all ranges of clients, and very comfortable and poised on her feet in court. I know that she will do great and important work and her clients will be lucky to have her on their side."
After her first year of law school, Tschiderer worked over the summer at the National Partnership for Women and Families in Washington, D.C., advocating for laws and policies that protect working women, such as paid sick days, equal pay and protections against discrimination.
The following summer, she worked at a nonprofit organization called Children's Rights in New York City, focusing on federal class-action lawsuits challenging systemic inadequacies in the child welfare systems on behalf of abused and neglected children in state care.
Tschiderer encouraged law students interested in a similar fellowship to "stick with it."
"Pursuing a career in public interest law is challenging, time-consuming and often lonely — but diligence and commitment will pay off," she said.
She added that the support of her friends, family and the UVA Law community was also helpful in pursuing the fellowship.
"I'd be remiss if I didn't thank [Director of Public Service] Amanda Yale for her unwavering support; she's edited every cover letter and talked me through many long job searches since the fall of my 1L year," she said. "I'm also grateful for my family and many wonderful friends who have listened, edited and cheered me on in this process!"