What's New

New Employment Law Clinic for Low-Wage Workers to Open in Fresno

Central California Legal Services (CCLS), Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center, and Lang, Richert & Patch, with support from the Mexican Consulate in Fresno, Team Up to Provide Free Legal Services in Central Valley.

The CCLS/Legal Aid Workers’ Rights Clinic devoted to the employment issues of low-wage workers will open its doors at 2115 Kern Street, Suite 1, in downtown Fresno on April 18. It will run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. People in need of assistance may either call 559-570-1200 to make an appointment or come to the office during those hours.

Founded by Central California Legal Services (CCLS), Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center (Legal Aid), with the support of the local law firm of Lang, Richert & Patch, and the Consulate of Mexico in Fresno, the Clinic,—the first of this collaborative in the Central Valley—will provide free legal assistance to low-wage workers who are subjected to illegal practices on the job.

Read the news release

Decision in Brinker v. Superior Court: Employers May Not Interfere with Workers’ Right to Meal Breaks

On April 12, 2012, the California Supreme Court issued its much-awaited decision in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, clarifying an employer’s obligations to provide hourly—or non-exempt—workers meal and rest periods.

On the central question of what it means to provide meal periods, the Brinker decision concluded that “an employer’s obligation is to relieve its employee of all duty, with the employee thereafter at liberty to use the meal period for whatever purpose he or she desires, but the employer need not ensure that no work is done.” The Court reasoned that requiring an employer to police its workers’ breaks would contradict the principle that the employer relinquishes all control during breaks. The Court clarified further than an employer cannot impede breaks by pressuring workers against taking breaks, create incentives to forego breaks, or encourage skipping breaks. In doing so, the Court reaffirmed the long-standing principle that California’s workers are “entitled to uninterrupted half-hour [meal] periods in which they are relieved of any duty or employer control and are free to come and go as they please.”

Two Legal Aid Attorneys on The Fast Track

We are pleased to announce that Tamika L. Butler and Rachael Langston were selected by the editors of The Recorder as two among 50 Lawyers on the Fast Track. The list recognized attorneys who have practiced 10 years or less and who have demonstrated “substantial accomplishments as leaders, lawyers and community members.”

Read more about Fair Play for Girls in Sports.

Read more about our Gender Equity and LBGT Rights Programs.

Read more about our Disability Rights Program.

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Equal Pay Day: U.S. Women Still Earning 20% Less than Men

April 17, 2012, marked “Equal Pay Day” in the United States.

On average, women earn less than men and therefore they must work one day longer a week to earn  the same pay.  That’s why Equal Pay Day is recognized yearly;  it is to demonstrate concretely that it takes one day more per week for the average earnings of women to catch up to those earned by men in a similar job 

Today, women earn 81.2 cents for every dollar men earn.  The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics found that women who were full-time workers had median weekly earnings of $669, nearly 20% less than men’s median weekly earnings (based on 2010 data).  Broken down by race, the gap is even larger.  Latina women earn $508 per week as compared to $850 per week for White men.  Similarly, African-American women earn $592 per week and Asian women earn $773 per week.  While Equal Pay Day is designed to highlight wage discrimination involving women, Latino and African-American men also earn less than White men.  Latino men earn $560 a week as compared to $850 per week for White men.  African-American men earn $633 per week.          

Women are already suffering economically in these difficult economic times, and their challenges are even greater because of the harms caused by pay discrimination.

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Legal Aid's Tamika Butler and Elizabeth Kristen

Leveling the Playing Field for Female Athletes: Legal Aid Staff Discuss the Promise of Title IX at the AAUW Convention

On Saturday April 14, 2012, Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center attorneys Elizabeth Kristen and Tamika Butler co-presented a workshop at the 2012 American Association of University Women (AAUW) California Convention in Santa Clara, California. 

In the workshop, “Fair Play for Girls in Sports-Leveling the Playing Field for K-12 Athletes,” Elizabeth and Tamika focused on the crucial role that Title IX and high school sports programs serve as a ladder out of poverty for girls from low income families. They also discussed the many benefits that state law AB 2404 and with it California Parks and Recreation programs offer as a gateway to broader horizons for young girls living in low income communities. 

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Legal Update: Federal Judge in Gay and Lesbian State Employee Case Hears Motion for Summary Judgment

Attorneys from Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center argued cross-motions for summary judgment in Dragovich v. CalPERS on Thursday, April 26, 2012. The motions were heard by Judge Claudia Wilken, United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

The case raises constitutional claims of gay and lesbian state workers who, together with their same-sex spouses or registered domestic partners, are denied equal access to California’s Long-Term Care Program. The lawsuit challenges the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and a provision of the Internal Revenue Code that excludes gay and lesbian state employees from purchasing state-sponsored long term care benefits for their spouses or domestic partners in violation of the equal protection and due process clauses of the 5th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution.

The Court previously rejected the federal Defendants’ motion to dismiss the claims.

New Fresno Workers’ Rights Clinic

On April 18, the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center (Legal Aid) added Fresno to the list of its Workers’ Rights Clinic sites. The Fresno Workers’ Rights Clinic is a collaboration of Legal Aid, Central California Legal Services (CCLS), the Mexican Consulate, and the Fresno-based law firm of Lang, Richert & Patch. It was recently featured in a Fresno Bee article.

The Fresno Clinic is housed at CCLS and is staffed by attorneys from Legal Aid, CCLS and members of the local bar, as well as paralegals and law students. Initially operating once per month, the Clinic will provide free legal services to low-wage workers, including farm workers, in the Central Valley who face a range of workplace problems including unpaid wages and overtime, health and safety violations and discrimination.

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On April 30, 2012, the California Supreme Court decided whether workers can recover or be subject to awards of attorneys fees when making meal and rest period claims.

The Court in Kirby v. Immoos Fire Protection, Inc. held that, generally, claims alleging meal and rest period violations under Labor Code section 226.7 are not subject to one-way or two-way fee shifting provisions.  “In line with its analysis in Brinker, the Court’s decision in Kirby protects low-wage workers’ rights to pursue section 226.7 meal and rest break claims without fear of exposure to exorbitant amount of attorney’s fees,” said Fernando Flores, Director of Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center’s WageHELP Program.

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Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center is pleased to invite applications for sponsorship of a Skadden Fellow for the two-year period beginning in September 2013.  The two-year fellowship offers a recent law school graduate the opportunity to obtain training in litigation as well as many other aspects of public interest practice.  The Skadden Fellowship Foundation awards approximately 25 fellowships per year to graduating law students and outgoing judicial clerks.  Skadden Fellows develop projects that provide legal services to persons who are poor, elderly, and/or homeless, persons with disabilities, and others who are deprived of human or civil rights.

Legal Aid seeks to sponsor a candidate to work within our Wage and Hour Enforcement Litigation Program- WageHELP. Applicants are encouraged to propose and discuss project ideas in this program area which works to ensure that all workers benefit from the protections of wage and hour law.

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Members of Congress and Advocates Announce Federal Legislation Protecting Pregnant Workers from Discrimination

May 8, 2012—Today Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and 63 cosponsors, including Jackie Speier, Susan Davis, and Anna Eshoo of California, will introduce the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA).  This legislation would require employers to provide reasonable job modifications that would allow pregnant women to continue working and supporting their families.

“Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center is pleased to endorse the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act" said Sharon Terman, Senior Staff Attorney and Director of the Work and Family Project at Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center. "Seventy-five percent of women in the workforce will become pregnant while employed. Yet far too many women are forced out of their jobs when they need them most – when they are expecting a new child."

The proposed legislation was announced at a news conference in Washington, D.C., featuring Members of Congress and representatives from supporting organizations, including Legal Aid Staff Attorney Rachael Langston.

The full news release from the Members of Congress.

The Letter of Support, signed by more than 100 organizations across the country.

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