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.
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.
Decision in Kirby v. Immoos Fire Protection, Inc.: Workers Not Subject to Attorneys Fees in Claims Alleging Meal and Rest Period Violations
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.
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.Read more
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.Read more
The Civil Justice Clinic at UC Hastings College of Law has recognized Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center with its Community Partner Award for “Outstanding Commitment to Workers’ Rights and the Practical Training of Law Students.”
Legal Aid has had a longstanding relationship with Hastings and the law school is a key partner in Legal Aid’s Workers’ Rights Clinic and Unemployment and Wage Claims Project. At the Clinic and Claims Project, Hastings students are trained to provide legal information to low-wage workers with work-related legal issues and represent clients at hearings before the Labor Commissioner and the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board.
“Having Hastings as a partner has been critical to the success of the Clinic and Claims Project,” said Carole Vigne, Director of the Claims Project at Legal Aid. “The students’ talent and commitment allow us to serve as many individuals as we do. Without the students and the support of Hastings’ leadership and the Civil Justice Clinic, we would not be able to advise hundreds of workers and represent scores of clients each year.”
The award was presented to Carole Vigne on May 11, 2012.
Federal Judge in Gay and Lesbian State Employee Case Rules in Favor of Plaintiffs and Issues an Injunction
On Thursday, May 24, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted judgment in favor of gay and lesbian state workers who, together with their registered domestic partners, are excluded from equal access to California’s Long-Term Care Program.
Judge Claudia Wilken issued the ruling in Dragovich v. CalPERS, a class action lawsuit challenging federal and state laws including the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which regulate state-sponsored long-term care plans. These laws permit employees and an array of family members to join such plans, including opposite-sex spouses, but exclude the spouses and registered domestic partners of gay and lesbian workers. Judge Wilken found that the statutory preclusion of gay and lesbian spouses and partners violated the United States Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.
“Lesbian and gay couples are entitled to fair and equal treatment from the federal government,” said Elizabeth Kristen of Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center. “Judge Wilken’s ruling ensures that both same-sex spouses and registered domestic partners will be treated fairly with respect to the CalPERS long term care insurance program.”Read more
On June 12, the Workers’ Rights Disability Law Clinic will host a free Workers’ Compensation clinic. Volunteer Workers’ Comp attorneys from Worksafe will provide counseling on Workers’ Comp issues. Spanish-speaking attorneys will be available.
Workers’ Compensation clinic
Tuesday, June 12; appointments beginning at 6:30 pm
Ed Roberts Campus adjacent to the Ashby BART Station
3075 Adeline St., Berkeley, CA 94703
The clinic is by appointment only; please call 415-864-8848.Read more
Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center is pleased to have the following law clerks join and work with us for the summer:
Marisa Díaz (Stanford Law School), Sean Murphy (University of New Mexico School of Law), Marta Novoa (UC Davis School of Law), Viviana Santiago (UC Berkeley School of Law), Esmeralda Santos (UC Hastings College of the Law), Joshua Tarrant-Windt (Columbia Law School), Malinda Tuazon (UC Hastings College of the Law), Gerardo Vicuña (UC Berkeley School of Law), Arthur Welton (UC Hastings College of the Law), and Katherine Zhao (Stanford Law School).
On May 30, 2012, the California Assembly passed AB 2039 (Swanson), a bill that would allow workers to take job-protected time off to care for seriously ill siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, adult children, and parents-in-law. Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center is the organizational sponsor of AB 2039 and has long been at the forefront of expanding the rights of workers with family caregiving responsibilities. Through its Work & Family helpline, Legal Aid receives numerous calls from individuals who need leave from work to care for a family member not covered under existing law.Read more