Staff

Working for LAS–ELC brings the rewards of a collegial and supportive workplace, and the satisfaction of providing a high level of client service. Student law clerks and new attorneys supported by fellowships continually bring new energy and ideas to the programs of the LAS–ELC, and their contributions are highly valued.

Attorneys

  • Joan Messing Graff
    President

    Joan Graff has been President of the Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center since 1981. She began her legal career working in the General Counsel’s office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at its headquarters in Washington D.C. Following her move to the Bay Area Ms. Graff joined Equal Rights Advocates as it was being launched and remained there for nearly a decade. The organization was one of the first nonprofit legal organizations in the country dedicated to securing equality for women and it became one of the leading proponents for women’s rights nationally. Ms. Graff has served on a number of boards and advisory committees and in 2006 was awarded the Loren Miller Legal Services Award by the State Bar of California.

    Ms. Graff received her J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1967 and her B.S. from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations in 1964. She is a member of the Bars of California and the District of Columbia.

  • Alexis Alvarez
    Staff Attorney
    Alexis Alvarez

    Alexis Alvarez is a Staff Attorney in the Disability Rights Program at LAS-ELC. Prior to joining LAS-ELC, Alexis was a Staff Attorney with the Disability Rights Legal Center’s Cancer Legal Resource Center in Los Angeles, CA, where she provided legal services to people with cancer-related legal issues. She also clerked for Judges Robert L. Hess and Barbara M. Meiers of the Los Angeles Superior Court and Judge Gilbert M. Roman of the Colorado Court of Appeals. Alexis obtained her J.D. from the University of California, Davis in 2011. While in law school, she clerked for the Disability Rights Program at LAS-ELC and participated in the Workers' Rights Clinic. Alexis received her B.S. from Colorado State University in 2007.

  • Marsha Chien
    Staff Attorney

    Marsha Chien is a Staff Attorney with the Immigration and National Origin Program. She represents, educates and advises low-income, limited-English proficient (LEP) workers arbitrarily barred from equal employment opportunities. Prior to working at LAS-ELC, Marsha clerked for United States District Judge Marsha J. Pechman in the Western District of Washington. Marsha received her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and her undergraduate degree in International Economics from Georgetown University.  Before law school, Marsha served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala and an AmeriCorps member in Washington, D.C.

  • Katherine Fiester
    Shartsis Friese LLP Public Interest Fellow

    Katie Fiester is the Shartsis Friese LLP Public Interest Fellow at LAS-ELC, where she advises and represents clients in wage claim and unemployment insurance administrative proceedings, working in both the Community Legal Services Program and the Wage Protection Program. In addition, Katie serves clients at semi-monthly Wage Claim Clinics held at the California Labor Commissioner offices in San Francisco and Oakland.

    Katie obtained her J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 2014. While in law school, she clerked for the Community Legal Services Program at LAS-ELC and participated in the Workers' Rights Clinic. Katie received her B.A. in Political Science with a minor in Criminal Justice from California State University, Long Beach.  Before law school, Katie was a legal assistant with JusticeCorps, where she facilitated equal justice and fairness for pro se litigants.

  • Michael T. Gaitley
    Senior Staff Attorney
    Director, Community Legal Services

    Mike Gaitley is a Senior Staff Attorney at the LAS–ELC. He manages the LAS–ELC’s Community Legal Services Program, where his primary responsibility is supervision of the LAS–ELC’s Workers’ Rights Clinics held in-person throughout the Bay Area, and statewide by telephone. Prior to becoming a Staff Attorney, Mr. Gaitley was a sole-practitioner focusing on employment-related litigation and related services. Mr. Gaitley also worked as a union official and attorney with Pan Am’s flight attendant union. Mr. Gaitley is a 1984 graduate of Pace University Law School and a 1979 graduate of the University of Michigan. Mr. Gaitley currently serves as an adjunct professor at University of California - Hastings College of the Law.

  • Christopher Ho
    Senior Staff Attorney
    Director, Immigration and National Origin Program

    Christopher Ho, Director of the National Origin, Immigration, and Language Rights Program, has been with LAS–ELC since 1987, first as its Félix Velarde-Muñoz Graduate Intern and then, upon his return in 1990, as a staff attorney. His primary focus has been on litigation against practices that disproportionately impact language minorities, undocumented workers, and recent immigrants. Mr. Ho has also worked on cases in the areas of race and sexual orientation discrimination, wage and hour rights and workplace privacy, and served as lead class counsel in Tracy v. Yellow Cab, which successfully enjoined unlawful employment practices in the San Francisco taxi industry affecting thousands of drivers. He was the recipient of a California Lawyer Attorney of the Year Award in 2004 for his work on Rivera v. Nibco, Inc. and Singh v. Jutla, two cases that reaffirmed the right of undocumented immigrants to seek legal redress for workplace discrimination and retaliation. He also was given the Joe Morozumi Award for Exceptional Legal Advocacy in 2006 by the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area, and Stanford Law School’s Alumni Public Service Award in 2007. Most recently, he successfully argued Salas v. Sierra Chemical Co., a case that solidified California state law protections for undocumented workers, before the California Supreme Court. Mr. Ho received his B.A. in political science from Yale in 1977, an A.M. in government from Harvard in 1980, and his J.D. from Stanford in 1987. In 2001, he was a Windcall Resident Fellow in Belgrade, Montana.

  • Jinny Kim
    Senior Staff Attorney
    Director, Disability Rights Program

    Jinny Kim is a Senior Staff Attorney in the Disability Rights Program at LAS–ELC. Jinny joined LAS–ELC in 1999 as the Félix Velarde-Muñoz Fellow and litigated race, disability, national origin and gender cases. Thereafter, she was a Georgetown Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellow where she served as Labor Counsel to Senator Edward Kennedy on the Committee for Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Prior to returning to LAS–ELC in 2008 as a Staff Attorney, Jinny held positions at the Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, as well as Schneider, Wallace, Cottrell, Brayton and Konecky, and Goldstein, Demchak, Baller, Borgen & Dardarian. Jinny received her J.D. in 1999 from the University of California, Davis and her B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1995.

  • Elizabeth Kristen
    Senior Staff Attorney
    Director, Gender Equity & LGBT Rights Program

    Elizabeth Kristen is the Director of the Gender Equity & LGBT Rights Program and a Senior Staff Attorney at the LAS–ELC. She represents workers in employment discrimination cases including cases involving discrimination on the basis of gender, pregnancy, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, and race as well as cases in which employers have violated family and medical leave laws. She also engages in community education, negotiations, litigation and policy work on behalf of female students who have not been afforded equal athletic opportunities under Title IX. Prior to beginning her work at LAS–ELC in 2002 as a Skadden Fellow, she clerked for the Honorable James R. Browning on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. She graduated from Berkeley Law in 2001 where she was selected for the Order of the Coif. She also served as an Editor for the California Law Review. Ms. Kristen is a member of the American Association of University Women, the National Employment Lawyers Association and the California Employment Lawyers Association and a past Board member of the Pride Law Fund. In 2012-13, she served as a Harvard law School Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow.  She was a lecturer at Berkeley Law School from 2008-2013.  She is currently a member of CELA Voice.

  • Rachael Langston
    Staff Attorney

    Rachael Langston is a Staff Attorney in the Gender Equity and Disability Rights Programs. Rachael joined the LAS–ELC in 2008. She advises and represents workers with disabilities, with a primary focus on disability discrimination and failure to accommodate in the workplace. Rachael also provides community education regarding the rights of employees with disabilities, and participates in legislative advocacy to expand the rights of workers who have familial care giving responsibilities. She received her J.D. in 2008 from the University of California, Berkeley and her B.A. from Texas Tech University in 2005.

  • William C. McNeill. III
    Managing Attorney
    Director, Racial Equality Program

    Bill McNeill is the Managing Attorney and Director of the Racial Equality Program at the LAS–ELC. Bill has been with the LAS–ELC since 1988 and served as the Managing Attorney since 1998. He has been involved in civil rights issues for more than 30 years, and has litigated a number of cases designed to advance the rights of minorities, including Davis v. City and County of San Francisco, which resulted in the integration of the fire department, increased opportunity for people of color in hiring and promotions, and the appointment of the first black chief in the City’s history. Bill began his legal career in 1971 as a public defender with the Roxbury Defenders Committee in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He then worked as an attorney with the Atlanta Regional Litigation Center for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as the director of the Title VII Project at the San Francisco Office of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and as regional counsel for California Rural Legal Assistance. He has received two honors from the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. for his litigation work combating employment discrimination. Bill received his J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School in 1971 and his A.B. in Economics from Oberlin College in 1965. He is a member of the California, Georgia, and Massachusetts Bars.

  • Julia Parish
    Staff Attorney

    Julia Parish is a Project Attorney with the Work and Family and SURVIVE Projects and is the Director of the Healthy Mothers Workplace Coalition. Julia assists with the project helplines and provides legal advice, know-your-rights workshops and direct legal services for workers struggling with family and medical crises. She received her J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law in 2011 as well as her B.A. in Political Science and Spanish from the university. She also has a M.S. in Teaching from Pace University. Julia was previously a legal intern with the Gender Equity Program at LAS–ELC, and has training in family legal issues from her legal internship at East Bay Community Law Center. Prior to Law School, Julia was a High School Spanish teacher and sports coach.

  • Sharon Terman
    Senior Staff Attorney
    Director, Work and Family Program

    Sharon Terman is the Director of the Work and Family Program and a Senior Staff Attorney at LAS-ELC. She represents workers with family and medical leave claims as well as claims of pregnancy, gender, and disability discrimination. She also provides legal advice to low-income workers, engages in community education, and participates in legislative advocacy to expand workers’ rights. Sharon received her B.A. from UC Berkeley in 1998 and her J.D. from Stanford Law School in 2004. After law school, she clerked for the Honorable Richard A. Paez of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals from 2004-2005. She joined LAS–ELC as a Skadden Fellow in 2005 and became a Staff Attorney in 2007.

  • Kim Turner
    Staff Attorney

    Kim Turner is a Staff Attorney with the Gender Equity & LGBT Rights Program and the Fair Play for Girls in Sports Project. Through litigation, education and policy work, Kim advocates for equality, with a specific focus on athletic opportunities for female youth—particularly in low-income communities. Since graduating from Cardozo Law School in New York City in 2008, Kim has practiced a mixture of Title IX, employment and housing law, including as a Staff Attorney with Bay Area Legal Aid. She received her B.A. from Brown University in 2002, double concentrating in Public Policy and Sociology. At Brown, Kim also played for the varsity women’s volleyball team. Before law school, Kim worked for Senator Dianne Feinstein and the National League of Cities in Washington D.C. 

  • Carole Vigne
    Staff Attorney
    Director, Wage Protection Program

    Carole Vigne is a Staff Attorney and Director of the Wage Protection Program. She provides information, advice, and representation to workers on their employment rights, with a focus on wage and hour and unemployment insurance issues. Carole also trains and supervises legal advocates to represent clients at administrative wage claim hearings and unemployment insurance appeals and engages in community education. Carole was previously a Skadden Fellow with LAS–ELC’s National Origin, Immigration, and Language Rights Program, working to expand the rights of immigrant workers and serving San Francisco’s immigrant, limited-English-proficient, Latino workers through a workers’ rights clinic. She also litigated employment law cases at Rukin, Hyland, Doria & Tindall, LLP, and previously worked at the ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. Carole received her B.A. from Brown University in 2001 and her J.D. from University of California, Berkeley School of Law in 2007.

  • Diane Webb
    Chief Program Officer

    Diane Webb is the Chief Program Officer at LAS-ELC, where she oversees the organization's programs and works to ensure that they reflect a model of long-term sustainability consistent with the organization’s mission. Prior to joining LAS-ELC, Diane was a litigation partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, focusing on complex litigation matters with an emphasis on class actions concerning antitrust, unfair competition, false advertising, interference, and fraud. She was also part of Morgan Lewis’s Pro Bono Committee where she represented bono clients and supervised attorneys working to obtain U-Visas for victims of domestic violence, pursuing asylum for political refugees, overcoming discrimination at various California schools, and expunging and sealing criminal records.

    As a John A. Sutro Public Service Fellow at LAS-ELC from 1998-1999, Diane developed a legal services program that concentrated on child labor issues and the rights of youth in the workplace. She also litigated select cases dealing with wage and hour, sexual harassment, and workplace safety and health issues, and she developed a youth employment law curriculum and conducted “know-your-rights” trainings at high schools and other sites. Diane has taught legal ethics as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in Spring 2013 and at the University of San Francisco School of Law for several semesters. She earned her J.D. from the University of San Francisco School of Law. 

Special Counsel

Program Services

  • Leslie V. Chaires
    Administrative & Community Outreach Coordinator

    Leslie Chaires is the Administrative and Community Outreach Coordinator for the Community Legal Services Program. She provides administrative support for the Workers’ Rights Clinics, which offer free advice and counseling to low-income workers. In addition, she coordinates community outreach efforts and provides legal intakes, referrals and information, translating services, and limited representation at unemployment hearings. Leslie received her B.A. from San Francisco State University in 2008, double majoring in Broadcast and Electronic Communications Arts and Latino/a Studies. As a student, Leslie was an active member of organizations dedicated to promoting social justice for undocumented immigrants and was involved in efforts to advocate for higher education for low-income students throughout California.

  • Dayan Garcia
    Legal Assistant
    Dayan Garcia

    Dayan is a Legal Assistant at LAS-ELC, where she provides administrative and legal support to attorneys across all practice areas. Prior to joining LAS-ELC, Dayan worked as a Paralegal at Kali Law Offices, the Law Offices of Antonia M. Stainbrook and was a Legal Assistant at the Law Office of Robert J. Beles. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Latin American Studies and studied abroad in Spain, and she earned her paralegal certificate from San Francisco State University. Dayan is passionate about social justice and has volunteered at Centro Legal de la Raza and the International Institute of the Bay Area.

  • Ruby Ponce
    Paralegal

    Ruby Ponce is a Litigation Paralegal that has been with LAS–ELC since 2013. She graduated from Sonoma State University in 2012 with a B.A. in Philosophy concentrating in Pre- Law Studies, and later completed the Paralegal Studies Program at San Francisco State University in 2013. Ruby provides administrative and legal support to attorneys across all practice areas. Prior to joining LAS-ELC, Ruby was an Enforcement Unit Intern at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's San Francisco District Office. Ruby was also a Legal Intern at the Law Offices of Svetlana M. Shirinova and The Law Offices of Adam Neufer.

  • King Szeto
    Language Access Coordinator

    King Szeto is the Language Access Coordinator for the Community Legal Services Program and has been with LAS-ELC for 14 years. He provides language assistance to workers with limited english capacity who seek legal help from LAS-ELC. King helped initiate and now manages LAS-ELC's Chinese language phone line, and he has been conducting weekly educational outreach on employment law via Chinese language newspapers and radio programs for over 10 years. Prior to joining LAS-ELC, King worked as a broadcast journalist.

External Relations and Development

  • Sara Feldman
    Communications Manager

    Sara Feldman is the Communications Manager at LAS-ELC, where she designs and implements communications strategies to increase the reach and impact of the organization. Previously, Sara worked as a Policy Advisor with Migration and Refugee Services of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, where she conducted policy analysis and advocacy on behalf of refugees, human trafficking survivors and unaccompanied children. She also has considerable experience conducting research and providing direct services to refugee and immigrant populations in the U.S. and internationally. Sara holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Oregon, and an M.A. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

  • Steve Heimerle
    Development Manager

    Steve Heimerle is LAS-ELC's Development Manager and has been with LAS-ELC since 2006, when he became coordinator of the $4 million Justice Fund Campaign. He attended Iowa State University’s School of Architecture and worked for two national design firms in Chicago, Fountain Valley, Palo Alto and San Francisco for 14 years prior to beginning a career in non-profit marketing and development. Before joining LAS-ELC, he worked for six Bay Area non-profits, including the Oakland East Bay Symphony, Shanti and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players.

  • Mario Lemos
    Development Associate

    Mario Lemos is a Development Associate at LAS-ELC, where he manages the Raiser's Edge database and collaborates with the development team on various fundraising efforts. He has worked for over ten years at San Francisco non-profits including the San Francisco Opera, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco Art Institute and Grace Cathedral. Prior to joining LAS-ELC, he served as the Development Information Manager at The Conservatory of Music. He has served on the advisory board for the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery and currently serves as a board member for Southern Exposure. Mario is also a visual artist and curator. 

  • Nitya Velu
    Development Associate
    Nitya Velu

    Nitya Velu is a Development Associate at LAS-ELC, where she supports fundraising and communications efforts. Prior to joining LAS-ELC, Nitya worked with All Stars Helping Kids, where she managed the Tuck’s RUSH for Literacy program and supported donor relations management. Nitya has five years of experience serving non-profit organizations in the Bay Area and Central Ohio, and she currently serves as Co-Chair of the Multicultural Alliance, supporting diversity and inclusion within the fundraising profession. Nitya holds a B.A. in International Studies from The Ohio State University.  

Administration

  • Howard Chen
    Director of Human Resources
  • Mariela Esther Dawkins
    Finance Manager

    Mariela Esther Dawkins is the Finance Manager at LAS-ELC, and she brings over 12 years of experience as a Financial Accountant to her position. She has worked for organizations in a broad range of industries and has extensive experience with nonprofit organizations. Mariela specializes in policies and procedures that are compliant with federal and state regulations, as well as many differing funder needs.

  • Ana E. Flores
    Receptionist
  • Scott Neilson
    Network Administrator

    Scott Neilson is the Network Administrator for LAS-ELC, where he has focused since 1999 on optimizing the technology in the office to enable staff to assist their clients. Scott is a San Francisco native who attended Archbishop Riordan High School and San Francisco State University. He is proud to contribute his talents to the work of such an important San Francisco institution.

  • Christine Todd
    Chief Operating Officer

    Christine Todd is the Chief Operating Officer at LAS-ELC, where she has oversight responsibility for the organization’s finance, human resources, technology and administrative functions. Chris joined LAS-ELC in 1997 as the Director of Administration, and has since 2000 held the responsibilities of her current position. She enjoys supporting the efforts of a wonderful group of talented and dedicated lawyers while enabling the organization to assist marginalized communities and effect social change.

    Prior to entering legal administration in public interest law, Chris worked for fifteen years in the investment banking industry, with various responsibilities including human resources, administrative management and investor relations. She has completed the OneJustice Executive Fellowship, is a member of the Association of Legal Administrators and the Society for Human Resource Management, and holds a B.A. in Economics from San Francisco State University.