History

“The work must not fail.” —Archbishop E. J. Hanna, 1916

Organizational Milestones

2013LAS-ELC reaches a settlement including broad injunctive relief with Abercrombie & Fitch, a major international retailer; the district court judge ruled that the employer violated federal civil rights laws by refusing to allow a Muslim employee to wear her religious headscarf at work.
2013Senior Staff Attorney Christopher Ho is honored for his litigation on behalf of immigrants by Chinese for Affirmative Action.
2013Legal Aid launches Jobs & Justice for Service Members, Veterans and Military Families, a project to provide employment-related legal services to those who have served in the military and their families.
2013Senate Bill 770, sponsored by LAS-ELC, is signed into law.  The bill expands Paid Family Leave to include caregiving for seriously ill siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and parents-in-law.
2013Senate Bill 400, sponsored by Legal Aid, is signed into law. The bill prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because they are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, and requires employers to provide reasonable safety accommodations to survivors at work.
2012In addition to its locations in San Francisco, Berkeley and San Jose, the Workers’ Rights Clinic adds new locations in Fresno and Santa Ana (Orange County).
2012Together with co-counsel, WageHELP achieves two major settlements – one on behalf of 18 Long Beach hotel workers who were denied meal and rest breaks, and another on behalf of 130 South Bay nail salon workers who were denied wages and subjected to national origin discrimination.
2012LAS-ELC and co-counsel wins summary judgment in its class action law suit against the IRS and CalPERS; the district court agrees that the exclusion of gay and lesbian spouses and registered domestic partners from the CalPERS long-term care plan violates the equal protection guarantees of the U.S. Constitution.  
2012The district court grants final approval to a negotiated settlement achieved by LAS-ELC and co-counsel on behalf of a class of deaf and hard of hearing Home Depot workers.  
2012LAS-ELC and co-counsel win their bench trial against Sweetwater Union High School District – after ten days of testimony, the judge finds that the school district violated Title IX by failing to provide high school girls with equal treatment and benefits in athletics.  
2011Senior Staff Attorney Sharon Terman receives the Stanford Law School Miles L. Rubin Public Interest Award.
2011LAS-ELC establishes the Wage and Hour Enforcement Litigation Program (WageHELP), a new program to provide representation in state and federal courts to low-wage workers with wage claims.
2011Together with Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, LAS-ELC launches the Workers’ Rights Disability Law Clinic at the Ed Roberts Campus, an accessible transit-based community center in South Berkeley.  
2010LAS-ELC settles a groundbreaking action brought on behalf of a retail worker who was harassed by coworkers and supervisors when she transitioned on the job from male to female.
2010LAS–ELC completes its tenth and final year advocating on behalf of Black shipyard workers in Mississippi who experienced racial harassment and discrimination for decades. A global settlement achieved company-wide changes in procedures regarding promotions and racial harassment.
2009With the economy stagnant and unemployment high, calls to LAS–ELC’s free legal clinics spike. In 2009, the Workers Rights Clinics serve 2,800 low-wage individuals, and the work and family hotline responds to 1,000 calls.
2009In Ollier v. Sweetwater Union High School District, LAS–ELC obtains a court order finding that “defendants are not in compliance with Title IX based on unequal participation opportunities in athletic program[s],” the first such pretrial order of its kind.
2009LAS–ELC files Perez v. Burlington Coat Factory, a groundbreaking case challenging hostile treatment of retail worker Maya Perez, who was harassed by coworkers and supervisors when she transitioned on the job from male to female.
2009Senior Staff Attorney Claudia Center receives the Paul G. Hearne Award for Disability Rights from the ABA Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law.
2009LAS–ELC settles Serralta v. Khan, an action brought on behalf of a 71-year-old housekeeper and nanny who worked 80-hour weeks caring for the young child and 10,000-square foot Atherton home of a Silicon Valley couple. Empowered by her experience, Vilma Serralta begins speaking at community events and campaigning with the National Domestic Worker Alliance.
2009After 25 years of service to LAS–ELC, Patricia A. Shiu, vice president for Programs, accepts a leadership position with the U.S. Department of Labor as the director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).
2009LAS–ELC initiates an ongoing collaboration with the American Association of University Women (AAUW) to monitor Title IX compliance in high schools throughout the country.
2008In Ollier v. Sweetwater Union High School District, LAS–ELC secures an important published opinion certifying a class of female students and rejecting the defendant’s argument that certification was “unnecessary.”
2008Participating in a broad coalition of civil rights leaders, LAS–ELC drafts portions of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, signed into law by President George W. Bush.
2008LAS–ELC adapts to great changes affecting the legal community, including the dissolutions of San Francisco law firms and longtime supporters Heller and Thelen.
2008LAS–ELC celebrates the 20-year anniversary of our Workers’ Rights Clinic with a party reuniting more than 150 former law student counselors, student clinic directors, and supervising attorneys.
2007Managing Attorney William C. McNeill receives the Kutak-Dodds Award from the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA), as well as the Oberlin Alumni Association’s Distinguished Achievement Award. Senior Staff Attorney Christopher Ho receives the Alumni Public Service Award from Stanford Law School.
2007Guo Jianmei, Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Director of the Peking University Women’s Legal Aid Center asks staff attorneys Patricia Shiu and Elizabeth Kristen to partner on a pioneering legal initiative to address workplace sexual harassment in China. This effort has the potential to affect as many as 10 million low-income women in the Chinese textile and garment industry.
2006The LAS–ELC celebrates its 90th continuous year of service.
2005In a case brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, LAS–ELC and co-counsel reached a landmark stipulated judgment requiring the San Francisco Unified School District to make their schools and other facilities accessible for hearing and visually impaired students and parents.
2004In a Title VII national origin discrimination action, LAS–ELC establishes that employers are prohibited in litigation from inquiring about plaintiffs’ immigration status, work authorization, and places of birth.
2003LAS–ELC establishes the Transgender Workers’ Rights Project protecting workers whose gender identity or appearance do not conform with traditional gender norms.
2003LAS–ELC wins a landmark jury verdict and $200,000 damage award on behalf of an undocumented immigrant who was reported to immigration authorities by his employer in retaliation for filing a claim for unpaid wages.
2002LAS–ELC brokers an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to increase representation of Latinos in the workforce. (Brionez v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture)
2002LAS–ELC reaches a settlement in Siddiqi v. University of California, which expands services and accommodations for deaf and hearing impaired students at the Berkeley and Davis campuses of the University of California, marking a new standard for integrating deaf students into higher education.
2002LAS–ELC argues Barnett v. U.S. Airways before the U.S. Supreme Court, a case clarifying the range of reasonable accommodations available to persons who can no longer perform the jobs due to on-the-job injuries or to worsening medical conditions.
2001In coalition with other civil rights groups, the LAS–ELC establishes the Enactment of Equal Access to Services Act ordinance in San Francisco, requiring city agencies to provide bilingual services where numbers of LEP individuals served exceeds specified thresholds.
2001LAS–ELC successfully upholds a California Supreme Court decision prohibiting racially harassing speech in the workplace as a violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act.
2001LAS–ELC reaches a settlement with the State of California to end its unlawful practice of requiring job applicants to complete intrusive and non-job related medical questionnaires.
2000LAS–ELC extended a consent decree, requiring an Imperial County Irrigation District to hire minority employees who had been disproportionately and unlawfully excluded from county jobs.
2000In coalition with other civil rights groups, LAS–ELC worked toward the enactment of the Prudence K. Poppink Act that reaffirmed California’s more protective state law prohibiting discrimination against disabled workers.
2000LAS–ELC successfully negotiates a settlement requiring that a major grocery store chain adopt a nation-wide policy that permits employees to wear a range of hairstyles, including hairstyles associated with race.
2000The LAS–ELC obtains the first federal Court order against an employer awarding compensatory and punitive damages to an undocumented worker for violations of her workplace rights
2000LAS–ELC establishes that it is an “adverse employment action” to report an undocumented worker to the INS regardless of the immigration status of the affected employee.
1999LAS–ELC establishes the East Palo Alto Economic Development Project, which successfully negotiated first source hiring provisions into construction contracts for the Gateway 101 Project, ensuring that residents of East Palo Alto would be hired for these lucrative and stable construction jobs.
1999LAS–ELC persuades the California State Bar to modify its practice of requiring medical and psychological testing for disabled applicants to the State Bar who need reasonable accommodation.
1999LAS–ELC establishes the Wage Claims Project, which assists working poor clients with unpaid wage claims.
1999LAS–ELC establishes the Nontraditional Employment Project, which expands access of women and people of color to skilled trades, public safety positions and blue-collar jobs.
1999LAS–ELC establishes the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Employment Project, which addresses employment issues faced by members of this community.
1999The Court approves the settlement of a mandamus action against the California Labor Commissioner challenging its failure to provide statutorily mandated bilingual services. This settlement requires statewide DLSE compliance with language access requirements (public contact staffing, informational materials, notices of action, etc.), which is more stringent than that required by the Dymally-Alatorre Bilingual Services Act or the Labor Code.
1999LAS–ELC and the ACLU of Northern California, Inc. successfully negotiate a settlement requiring that a national chain of nursing homes rescinds their English-only policy.
1998LAS–ELC establishes a landmark decision in Contreras v. Corinthian Vigor Insurance Brokerage, Inc., holding for the first time that undocumented workers have standing to bring retaliation claims against their employers who report them to the INS.
1998LAS–ELC wins a major class action lawsuit, which establishes that it is a violation of the constitutional right of privacy for employees to be subjected to intrusive medical and genetic testing without their knowledge or consent.
1998LAS–ELC wins a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals case establishing that a leave of absence is an appropriate reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
1998LAS–ELC establishes the Youth Employment Law Project, which assists low-income workers between the ages of 12 and 23 with work-related problems.
1998After more than 12 years of monitoring a court-ordered consent decree in a class action case against the San Francisco Fire Department, the Court concludes that the SFFD was in substantial compliance with the consent decree.
1997LAS–ELC establishes the LIBRA (Lifting Invisible Barriers Through Reasonable Accommodation) Project, which advocates for the employment rights of individuals with mental health disabilities.
1997LAS–ELC establishes the Domestic Violence and Employment Project, which helps victims of domestic violence escape the cycle of violence and poverty by advocating for their employment rights.
1997LAS–ELC and co-counsel are awarded $1.3 million in attorneys’ fees and costs for their work in Tracy v. Yellow Cab.
1996In coalition with private firm co-counsel, LAS–ELC wins Tracy v. Yellow Cab, a class action lawsuit against the major San Francisco taxicab companies, finding that they misclassified their drivers as independent contractors, and obtaining class wide injunctive relief and monetary claims process. As a result, several thousand drivers are required to be treated as employees under the workers’ compensation, unemployment and state labor laws.
1996LAS–ELC and other public interest groups settle a class action, Title VII case against Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company which had a policy of denying life insurance coverage to people it deemed insufficiently proficient in English. Settlement includes rescission of the policy, establishment of agent certification programs and the offering of policy information in 21 languages other than English, a claims process for similarly-situated persons also denied life insurance, and a consumer education fund to be used for the benefit of LEP communities.
1996LAS–ELC establishes the Welfare Advocacy Project, which protects the rights of individuals in welfare-to-work programs.
1995LAS–ELC establishes the Language Rights Project, which offers legal protection for those who have experienced discrimination in employment because their primary language is other than English.
1995Protecting the inclusion of women and minorities, LAS–ELC contests the constitutionality of Proposition 209, the voter initiative that eliminated affirmative action programs in the public sector.
1995LAS–ELC establishes the Unemployment Claims Project, which assists and represents individuals with contested claims for unemployment compensation.
1995LAS–ELC formally establishes the National Origin/Immigrant Workers’ Rights Project, but has been involved in issues affecting immigrant workers and national origin based discrimination for over a decade.
1995LAS–ELC and the ACLU of Northern California successfully negotiate a statewide settlement of an Equal Employment Opportunity Charge (EEOC) charge against the California Department of Health Services (DHS), resulting in the establishment of a DHS policy that “speak-English-only rules” applied to staff are unsupported by federal and state nursing home regulations, and clarifying that facilities cannot be cited for not having English-only rules.
1995LAS–ELC establishes a national, toll-free Language Rights Line (advice and referral service).
1994Securing the very first judicial decision of its kind, the LAS–ELC’s work establishes that organizational plaintiffs are entitled to monetary damages for discrimination suffered by their members.
1994LAS–ELC establishes the Affirmative Action Project whose purpose is to diversify the workforce in accordance with state and federal law.
1994LAS–ELC renews its commitment to help poor workers and their families who grapple with employment related legal issues, with an emphasis on race, gender, national origin and disability-based discrimination.
1994LAS–ELC settles an accent discrimination case brought on behalf of Filipino security guards, which includes significant injunctive relief and requires a statement in personnel materials that accent-based discrimination is inappropriate, and that any action taken ostensibly on account of an employee’s accented, spoken English must be supported by business necessity.
1993Working in coalition with civil rights and other advocacy groups across the country for several years, President Clinton signs the Family and Medical Leave Act into law.
1992LAS–ELC, working with Senator Jackie Speier, succeeds in enacting a law that provides pregnant women with reasonable transfer accommodation during pregnancy.
1992The Day Laborers Project, which offers legal aid to immigrants from Central and South America who work as casual laborers, is established.
1991After more than 8 years of legislative advocacy by LAS–ELC and other civil rights groups, the California Family Rights Act, which provides unpaid family and medical leave to eligible employees, is signed into law.
1991LAS–ELC celebrates 75 years of service, culminating in an Anniversary Luncheon address by Supreme Court Justice Harry S. Blackmun.
1990LAS–ELC and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Commission prevail in a major sex discrimination case, which challenged the legality of a fetal protection policy that required female employees to provide medical proof of their inability to bear children.
1989LAS-ELC completes a three-year National Cancer and Employment Project, funded by the American Cancer Society.
1988The San Francisco Worker’s Rights Clinic, a free clinic for low-income workers who face employment problems, is established, assisting over 2000 poor workers in its first year.
1987LAS–ELC and other civil rights groups establish in a California Supreme Court case that employees may not deduct tips earned by employees from their duty to pay the minimum wage.
1987LAS–ELC and other civil rights organizations settle a major class action against the City and County of San Francisco brought on behalf of women and racial minorities who sought employment with and promotions within the San Francisco Fire Department.
1987LAS–ELC and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Commission win a landmark pregnancy discrimination case in the United States Supreme Court, protecting the right of pregnant women in California to take an unpaid pregnancy disability leave and return to work.
1986LAS–ELC litigates the first plant closure class action case in the country and obtains a favorable settlement in this innovative case, representing 500 workers. This lawsuit led to the passage of the federal WARN Act (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act) which prohibits large plants from closing without reasonable notice to workers.
1986LAS–ELC establishes the AIDS and Employment Project, which is instituted to protect workers who are HIV positive or have AIDS from discrimination in the workplace.
1984To address the competing demands of work and family, LAS–ELC establishes the Work and Family Project whose purpose is to safeguard the rights of poor workers and their families that face medical and family crises.
1983Representing women and racial minorities, the LAS–ELC settles a major employment discrimination class action lawsuit brought against a national department store.
1981LAS–ELC initiates the Medical Standards Act Project, an effort to eliminate unlawful barriers to the employment of disabled persons in the public sector.
1972The Board of Directors creates the Employment Law Center to address employment issues affecting underserved communities, including the poor and their families.
1970Citing the need to remain autonomous and independent, the Board of Directors declines to participate in the federally funded Legal Services Corporation.
1967Directing three legal programs—civil, criminal and juvenile—the Legal Aid Society provides services to more than 11,000 indigent clients.
1967The Legal Aid Society establishes the Juvenile Court Project to provide legal aid for disadvantaged children.
1965The Legal Aid Society receives the first National Defender Grant awarded in the United States which allows it to offer legal representation to indigent people in criminal proceedings.
1958More than 6,000 poor individuals are served by the Legal Aid Society.
1952The Legal Aid Society is incorporated as a 501(c)(3), non-profit organization.
1943Hundreds of men in the armed forces use the Legal Aid Society’s services, swelling its caseload to 3,400.
1926Between 1916 and 1926 the Legal Aid Society handled 9000 cases.
1922The Legal Aid Society becomes a founding member of the Community Chest.
1916The Legal Aid Society opens its first office on May 1, 1916.
1915The State Commission of Immigration and Housing initiates the founding of the Legal Aid Society in San Francisco.