Employment: Protecting the Rights of Low Wage Workers
The GBLS Employment Unit strives to help low-wage workers maximize their income and overcome obstacles that limit their employment opportunities and income levels.The Unit specializes in — and prioritizes — cases involving immigrant workers, workers with health or family needs, workers with disabilities, as well as cases involving or referred by workers centers and other community-based partner organizations.
Direct Client Services
The Employment Unit advises, and offers direct legal assistance, to low-income people in cases involving:
- Wrongful denial of unemployment benefits (including related health insurance and job training benefits);
- Violations of the state and federal wage laws resulting in wage theft (including nonpayment of wages, minimum wage and overtime pay violations, and employee misclassification as independent contractors);
- Tax controversies related to employment income or problems receiving the earned income tax credit (including tax deficiencies, claims for refunds, and identity theft) through the Low Income Taxpayer Assistance Project;
- Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) related barriers to employment, taking advantage of recent reforms to the CORI law.
The Employment Unit works closely with — and represents — many different community-based organizations, including workers centers based in many of Greater Boston’s immigrant communities. We also partner with a wide range of worker and immigrant rights advocacy organizations, government agencies, unions, members of the private bar and law schools.
Through these relationships and partnerships, we are able to maximize both the quantity and quality of direct representation available to individuals as well as the impact of our advocacy efforts on employment-related policies and laws.
In addition, the Employment Unit provides extensive legal support and advice to organizations to support community organizing to push for changes in laws and government policies, and/or expose abusive employer practices. This work helps to encourage the training of new community and workplace leaders.
Representation of individual clients with employment-related problems, and our ongoing involvement with on-the-ground community-based organizations, gives our legal staff knowledge and understanding of the most pressing needs for change to improve the lives of low-income workers and their families. We use this knowledge to advocate for changes to laws, rules, regulations, and policies at local, state, and national levels; to litigate cases with broad impact; to file amicus briefs in other court cases with important issues for low-wage workers; and to provide legal support that increases the effectiveness of community groups’ organizing efforts.