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Employment Law

We launched the Clearinghouse Community in 2015 with a series of articles on employment law. This featured collection compiles those articles along with recent Clearinghouse articles on the topic. 

The Witness in Your Pocket

By Nate Vogel & Michael Hollander

Smartphones track our every movement and record in extraordinary detail our location throughout the day. Workers can use this tracking information to help prove the hours that they worked at a job in wage-theft cases that lack strong evidence. As opposed to notebooks and work-tracking applications, smartphone data are collected without requiring prior affirmative action by the user, and this makes the data ideal for wage cases. Community Legal Services created a web-based tool that helps extract location data and make an Excel timesheet for introduction in court. This evidence should be admissible, with the help of an expert, as a nonhearsay recording of the phone’s location.

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Maintaining Options for Low-Income Workers

How to Defend Clients Against Noncompete Agreements

By Carol Brooke

Defending clients against the enforcement of unfair noncompete agreements should be part of a legal aid practice representing low-wage workers. Employers are increasingly using these agreements, which greatly restrict employment options, with unskilled workers. A careful exposition of the facts and use of public-policy arguments can yield strong defenses against breach-of-contract and related claims. Attorneys should also consider potential counterclaims.

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Advancing a Living Wage and Human Rights for Restaurant Workers in the United States

By Evelyn Rangel-Medina & Saru Jayaraman

Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United) is an organization of the food justice movement striving to transform the working conditions of 11 million restaurant workers in the United States. ROC United has launched One Fair Wage, a national campaign to eliminate the federal subminimum wage, which has been set at $2.13 since 1991. ROC United is advancing human rights frameworks to improve labor standards domestically.

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Work Schedules and Working Families

Solutions to a Growing Problem

By Carrie Gleason, Shawn Sebastian & Sherry Leiwant

As more American workers are employed part-time in hourly low-wage jobs, more of them are struggling with unstable work schedules that disrupt family life and make attaining an education or holding a second job almost impossible. Some states are taking steps to remedy work-schedule abuses with reporting-pay, right-to-request, and split-shift or spread-of-hours laws. Federal legislation that embraces all of these reforms has been introduced.

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Using Anti-trafficking Laws to Advance Workers’ Rights

By Spring Miller & Stacie Jonas

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act has become an important tool for attorneys who represent vulnerable low-wage workers. It prohibits certain forms of coercive labor relationships, seeks to deter and punish those who benefit from those relationships, and establishes mechanisms to protect and compensate victims. The Legal Services Corporation issued a final rule in 2014 to clarify the extent of legal services that its programs may offer to trafficking victims.

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Expungement: A Gateway to Work

By Margaret (Peggy) Stevenson

Expungement of a person’s criminal record—that is, ameliorating that record to the legal extent possible—improves that person’s chance of securing stable employment. An expungement helps workers and their families increase their income, and society benefits from increased public revenue and safety and decreased recidivism. The Record Clearance Project at San José State University exemplifies a comprehensive expungement practice.

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Finishing What You Started

Collecting on Judgments for Low-Wage Workers

By Michael Hollander

Low-wage workers who win judgments against bad employers must be able to collect those judgments for the legal victories to mean anything. Attorneys can improve their clients’ chances of recovery before ever initiating wage-collection litigation by evaluating the employer’s assets and exploring alternatives to litigation such as settlement, mechanic’s liens, and media campaigns. After winning a case, attorneys can collect on a judgment through garnishment, levy, judgment liens, or a new tool—wage liens.

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Job Preservation for Workers Who Need Sick Leave

By Brendan Lynch

When workers take sick leave to tend to illness or injury or to care for a sick family member, their employment rights are often protected by a panoply of federal and state laws. Advocates should familiarize themselves with the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and relevant state leave laws so that they can help their clients take leave when they need it and return to their jobs when the leave is over.

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Using Pregnancy Discrimination Claims to Fight Poverty

By Elizabeth M. Gedmark

Pregnancy discrimination at work can endanger a family's financial stability. Legal services attorneys can use local, state, and federal laws—such as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act, Title VII, and the Family and Medical Leave Act—to keep working families out of poverty. Other federal and state initiatives are under way to protect pregnant and parenting workers better.

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