The Women's Employment Rights Clinic (WERC) of Golden Gate University School of Law was established in 1993 to serve as a training ground for the next generation of ethical, competent and socially responsible professionals and to provide critical legal services and support to the community. The Clinic's mission is centered on ensuring that every worker has the right to economic fairness, equal opportunity and dignity in the workplace. Our mission is to collaborate with grassroots, community-based organizations and worker centers to enhance their capacity for systemic change. Our individual and impact cases are informed and are coordinated in partnership with broader community campaigns for economic justice.

 

 

NEWS

Press Release:

WERC clients successfully recover their full award with the help of the Labor Commissioner. WERC clinic students represented the clients in their successful Labor Commissioner hearing. 

http://www.dir.ca.gov/DIRNews/2017/2017-65.pdf

Court Grants Preliminary Injunction in Germick et al. v. Mission Beach Café

On June 1, 2017, a San Francisco Superior Court judge granted a preliminary injunction in Germick et al. v. Mission Beach Café et. al, requiring that Defendants immediately cease violating several labor laws by timely paying workers all earned wages, issuing paychecks with sufficient funds, and issuing legally sufficient paystubs. Read the Order here.

WERC along with co-counsel at Legal Aid at Work, represents the nine Plaintiffs, who are current and former employees at Mission Beach Café in San Francisco. WERC students assisted in the drafting of the motion and the numerous declarations that were filed. The workers' lawsuit, which alleges significant labor code violations, was filed in March 2017 and is pending.

Mission Beach Café Sued for Non-compliance With Basic Labor Standards

WERC represents nine current and former employees of Mission Beach Café, who filed a lawsuit alleging among other things that they are unable to cash their paychecks due to insufficient funds, not paid regularly, and not usually given paystubs. http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Mission-Beach-Cafe-sued-by-workers-claiming-wage-11031485.php

Workers at Care Facilities Not Paid Minimum Wage or OT, report says, San Francisco Chronicle

http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Workers-at-care-facilities-not-paid-minimum-wage-11151171.php

Study Exposes Troubling Conditions In CA Care Facilities, New American Media

http://newamericamedia.org/2017/05/the-real-financial-costs-of-caregiving.php

Press Release: Coalition for Fair and Equitable Caregiving Industry Releases Report

WERC authors report on working conditions in residential care facilities for Coalition for Fair and Equitable Caregiving Industry. Read the Press Release.

Court Grants Final Approval of Class Action Settlement in Rogers, et al. v. Kindred Healthcare, Inc., et al.

On October 7, 2016, the Alameda County Superior Court granted final approval of a $2.465 million settlement in Rogers, et al. v. Kindred Healthcare, Inc., et al., a class action alleging that Defendants failed to pay Personal Care Attendants the required minimum and straight time wages and overtime premiums, did not provide them with required meal and rest breaks when they worked in licensed healthcare facilities, and failed to issue legally compliant paystubs.

The class includes approximately 2,700 Personal Care Attendants who worked for Defendants Kindred Healthcare, Inc., Professional Healthcare at Home, LLC or NP Plus, LLC in California between June 18, 2010 and April 1, 2016.

Plaintiffs are represented by the Women's Employment Rights Clinic, Golden Gate University School of Law, with co-counsel Feinberg, Jackson, Worthman & Wasow and the Legal Aid Society -- Employment Law Center. For additional information about the settlement, contact Hina Shah.

CAREGIVER REPORT

GGU Report Cover

The Coalition for a Fair and Equitable Caregiving Industry released a policy report Understaffed and Overworked: Poor Working Conditions and Quality of Care in Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly, which links poor working conditions in Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly with quality of care issues. Professor Hina Shah of the Women's Employment Rights Clinic authored the report.

The United States is experiencing unprecedented growth in its elderly population. As Americans live longer and cope with chronic health conditions, the need for long term services and support has increased. Working conditions are an integral and essential component to residents' well-being. Quality of care and life in RCFEs cannot be improved without incorporating an effective strategy to improve the working conditions of caregivers.

Speakers

Caregivers Victoria Aquino and Lea Nelson along with Terry Valen from the Filipino Community Center discuss working conditions that caregivers face in Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly at the launch of the policy report on May 16, 2017.


NEWS COVERAGE OF THE REPORT

Workers at Care Facilities Not Paid Minimum Wage or OT, report says, San Francisco Chronicle

http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Workers-at-care-facilities-not-paid-minimum-wage-11151171.php

Study Exposes Troubling Conditions In CA Care Facilities, New American Media

http://newamericamedia.org/2017/05/the-real-financial-costs-of-caregiving.php

Press Release: Coalition for Fair and Equitable Caregiving Industry Releases Report

WERC authors report on working conditions in residential care facilities for Coalition for Fair and Equitable Caregiving Industry. Read the Press Release.

The Coalition For a Fair and Equitable Caregiving Industry is made up of legal service providers, worker centers, unions, community-based nonprofit organizations and consumer advocates who are invested in reforming the caregiving industry to ensure that workers and consumers of care receive fair and equitable treatment. The Coalition includes the following organizations: Asian Americans Advancing Justice -- Asian Law Caucus, Consumer Advocates for RCFE Reform, Filipino Advocates for Justice, Filipino Community Center, Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center, Legal Aid at Work, Pilipino Association of Workers and Im/migrants, Pilipino Workers Center, Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition, SEIU Local 2015, and Women's Employment Rights Clinic of Golden Gate University School of Law.

OUR WORK

WERC is dedicated to improving the rights of household domestic workers and caregivers in residential care facilities. In conjunction with grassroots, community-based organizations, WERC embraces a multi-pronged approach to making systemic changes. Through education, empowerment, litigation and policy reform, WERC is at the forefront of strengthening and expanding protections for low-wage workers.


INDIVIDUAL REPRESENTATION

Clinic students have successfully represented individual domestic workers and caregivers, recovering minimum wage and overtime, and successfully challenging denial of meal and rest breaks.

Fighting Wage Theft, One Hour at a Time

Each year, WERC students and attorneys represent numerous workers in their individual and collective actions against employers. As a result of WERC's direct representation, clients have recovered $1.3 million of unpaid wages just in the last four years mostly through administrative advocacy. WERC students and attorneys represent clients in administrative hearings before the Labor Commissioner and in court.

Our students gain valuable litigation experience representing caregivers before the California Labor Commissioner in contested evidentiary hearings. These workers work in residential care facilities, also called "assisted living facilities" or "board and care homes," for the elderly or developmentally disabled. They are owed a significant amount of unpaid wages. They work around the clock, on-call for 24 hour shifts, without adequate sleeping facilities or sufficient sleep. Some of these caregivers are forced to sleep on a cot or folding bed in the kitchen or dining room. They are not paid overtime and in some instance, their flat rate falls below the minimum wage. As a result of the students' advocacy, workers have been successful in being awarded their unpaid wages.

Bringing Significant Cases to Improve the Law for Low-Wage Workers

WERC consistently identifies areas where worker rights can be developed through strategic litigation. Both through its own docket and by acting as amici ("friend of the court"), WERC has contributed to expanding workplace protections for the most vulnerable workers.

Caregivers Sue Kindred Healthcare and Affiliates

In partnership with the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center and Feinberg Jackson Worthman & Wasow LLP, we filed a class-action against Kindred Healthcare, Inc. and its affiliated companies. This action challenges the illegal practices impacting hundreds of caregivers throughout California who are denied minimum wage and overtime and not provided their required meal and rest breaks. As our experience has shown us, this industry is replete with labor violations. We are hopeful that this lawsuit will significantly increase industry compliance with minimum labor standards. Read more about the case here.

24-Hour Shift Workers and Sleep

For the last five years, WERC has been challenging the unlawful practice of deducting eight hours of sleep for live-in workers and those who work 24 hour shifts through individual cases and administrative advocacy. When the issue of sleep deductions was heading to the California Supreme Court, WERC submitted an amicus brief on behalf of low-wage worker advocates. WERC Director, Hina Shah, wrote the brief and argued before the California Supreme Court in Mendiola v. CPS Security Solutions, Inc. The Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion holding that 24-hour shift workers required to spend time at their worksites and under the employer's control are entitled to compensation for all hours worked, including sleep time. Read the LA Times article. Also read the Sleep Handout for Workers.


EDUCATION & EMPOWERMENT

WERC has developed an expertise in the complex laws governing domestic workers and caregivers, providing technical assistance to numerous community-based organizations and legal advocates throughout California and community education and worker trainings on the rights of domestic workers and caregivers and other low-wage workers. To schedule a training, please contact the Clinic.


Governer Jerry Brown Signs Bill

Domestic Workers Marching

Domestic Workers Secure Permanent Overtime Rights

For more than a decade, domestic workers in California have mobilized a grassroots, worker-led statewide movement for equal treatment under the law. WERC has been a steadfast ally, serving as legal counsel to the California Domestic Workers Coalition since 2010, in its effort to expand workplace protections for this vulnerable and indispensable workforce.

In 2013, the Governor signed AB 241, extending overtime to almost 100,000 domestic workers in California. This gain, however, was not secure, as the bill would sunset in 2017. We celebrate the passage of SB 1015, which removes the sunset provision and makes overtime rights for these domestic workers a permanent reality. The success of this campaign is a testament to the grassroots organizing efforts to build the leadership and visibility of this low-wage immigrant women workforce.

WERC is proud to be a champion of domestic workers. As legal counsel to the Coalition, we provided legal and technical expertise to the Coalition, the Legislature and to the Governor's staff and helped educate worker leaders about the existing complex regulatory structure so they can make informed policy decisions. WERC has also represented domestic workers in enforcing these new rights in court and in administrative advocacy, helping recover hard earned wages and securing better working conditions.

FACULTY & STAFF
Hina Shah

HINA SHAH

Associate Professor of Law & Director, Women's Employment Rights Clinic
E-mail: hshah@ggu.edu


 Anna Kirsch

ANNA KIRSCH

Visiting Associate Professor & Staff Attorney, Women's Employment Rights Clinic
E-mail: akirsch@ggu.edu

Before joining WERC, Professor Kirsch supervised law students in legal clinics at UC Hastings and UC Berkeley. She also was Legal Director of the Medical Legal Partnership between Bay Area Legal Aid and S.F. General Hospital. Professor Kirsch has a passion for clinical teaching and for serving underserved communities. She especially enjoys helping law students develop essential lawyering skills while providing crucial legal services to low-wage immigrant workers. She is a graduate of UC Hastings, where she received the Hastings Civil Justice Clinical Student of the Year Award.  


Fe Gonzalez

FE GONZALEZ

Clinic Program Assistant
E-mail: fgonzalez@ggu.edu

Fe Gonzalez provides administrative support to both WERC and the Environmental Law and Justice Clinic. Fe joined the clinics in 2002, bringing many years of experience as a legal secretary and paralegal. Fe also provides limited translation assistance to our Filipino clients and enjoys helping students get up to speed on clinic procedures.

HOW TO GET HELP

The Clinic accepts new cases from August through November and January through April. We are not a drop-in clinic. Workers seeking assistance must call and speak with a clinic student who will do a preliminary phone interview. We handle a variety of employment related matters including wage and hour violations, discrimination, harassment, pregnancy accommodation, family leave laws and unemployment insurance. Our emphasis is on serving low income clients. There is no income limit. We do not handle worker's compensation claims.

Hotline Staff Hours: Mon - Fri: 9 am - 5 pm

Phone: 415-442-6647 (you can also leave a message after hours)

FAQS FOR LAW STUDENTS

"My law school commitment has changed from books and lectures to a new hands-on experience with the law, my clients and my colleagues."

-- Betta Fabiani, WERC Clinician '09

What do students do in the Clinic?

Students get exciting, hands-on experience representing low-income workers in various types of employment disputes. Clinic students, under the supervision of Professor Hina B. Shah conduct telephone intakes, assess and investigate cases, interview, advise and counsel clients, research and write substantive legal memoranda and/or legal briefs, represent clients at administrative hearings, file administrative claims and advocate for clients as needed. Students generally assist many individual clients during the semester, and may have the opportunity to work with outside co-counsel in more complex litigation or to participate in legislative or regulatory advocacy. Through the Clinic's Elfenworks Center for Employment Justice, students will work on issues affecting domestic workers and caregivers.

Where do our clients come from?

The Clinic represents clients from diverse backgrounds throughout the Bay Area with a special focus on low-income, immigrant women. Clients are referred to the Clinic by community based organizations, former clients, attorney referral agencies like the San Francisco Bar Association, private attorneys, the courts, employment agencies such as the Employment Development Department, non-profit legal organizations such as the Employment Law Center, social service agencies, unions and other organizations. Clients also learn about the Clinic through media coverage. The Clinic accepts new cases from August through November and January through April. Currently, the clinic is only accepting cases from domestic workers and caregivers and workers who have unemployment insurance issues.

Who can apply for the Clinic?

The Clinic is open to second and third year students who have successfully completed all first-year courses, and have completed Evidence or are concurrently enrolled in Evidence. Prior or concurrent enrollment in Employment Law or Employment Discrimination is helpful for clinic students but it is not required. The clinic is not limited to women students. Special scheduling arrangements are made on a case-by-case basis for night students whenever possible. Students interested in working with low-income clients from diverse backgrounds and students with fluency in Spanish, Tagalog, or Cantonese are encouraged to apply. Students must submit a Clinic Application Form to Professor Hina B. Shah. Deadlines for applications are published each semester in the law school news. There is a half-day mandatory immersion training on Friday afternoon,August 18, 2017. Students or prospective students who would like more information about the clinic can contact the clinic faculty.

What number of units and time commitment are involved?

Clinic students enroll in the 2 unit seminar plus an additional 2 or 3 clinic units

  • 2 Clinic units = 12.5 clinic hours per week (total of 4 units)
  • 3 Clinic units = 15 hours per week (total of 5 units)
What do we cover in the Women's Employment Rights Seminar?

The Seminar combines skills training and substantive law issues affecting low-wage workers. The seminar's substantive law topics include employment discrimination, workplace harassment, wage and hour laws, pregnancy discrimination and family and medical leave issues, unemployment benefits, wrongful termination, labor law, disability discrimination, and issues affecting immigrant workers. We emphasize a practical approach to these subject areas, with extensive discussion of California law as well as federal protections. Skills training includes interviewing, counseling, claims filing procedures, case theory development, and trial skills. Students prepare and conduct a mock administrative hearing.

What is the California State Bar certification program for Practical Training of Law Students (PTLS)?

The Practical Training of Law Students (PTLS) program allows a certified law student to perform permitted activities such as representing clients at hearings under the supervision of a supervising attorney. WERC clinicians are certified by the State Bar. For more information, see: PTLS

Can I enroll in the Seminar without taking the Clinic?

Generally, the seminar is limited to clinic students. In very limited circumstances, we may accept students for the Seminar, without participation in the Clinic, at the Professors' discretion. If you are interested in the Seminar only, contact Professor Hina Shah by the clinic application deadline published each semester in Law School News.

Should I take the Clinic if I do not plan to practice employment and labor law?

Yes. You will learn a wide range of lawyering skills in the Clinic that will be useful to you in other areas of law. These may include client counseling, legal research and writing, case investigation, witness interviews, and various administrative hearing skills such as opening statements, direct and cross examinations, and closing arguments.

Is it possible to enroll in WERC for more than one semester?

Yes. We accept a limited number of students as "carry-over" students if space is available and they want to continue their clinic work by enrolling for an additional semester.

CONTACT WERC

Phone: 415-442-6647
Fax:
415-896-2450
E-mail:
werc@ggu.edu

WOMEN'S EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS CLINIC

Golden Gate University School of Law
536 Mission Street, Suite 3326
San Francisco, CA 94105-2968

WERC STAFF

Professor Hina Shah

Associate Professor & Director
E-mail: hshah@ggu.edu

Professor Anna Kirsch

Visiting Associate Professor & Staff Attorney
E-mail: akirsch@ggu.edu

Fe Gonzalez

Administrative Assistant
E-mail: fgonzalez@ggu.edu

SUPPORT WERC

DONATIONS

Thanks to everyone who attended and supported our 20th Anniversary Clinic Celebration. Join our 20th Anniversary Circle of Donors.

WERC is program of Golden Gate University, a 501(c)(3) charitable educational organization. All contributions are deductible to the maximum extent permitted by law. Individual and foundation donations are gratefully accepted.

Gifts of any size are welcome. Donations to WERC may be made in two ways:
  1. Print out our donation form and mail in your contribution. Donation Form (PDF).
  2. Make an online donation here.
Seek a Workplace Matching Gift

Ask your human resources department or corporate giving personnel whether your employer matches donations to nonprofit organizations made by its employees. If it does, request a match for the gift you make to the Women's Employment Rights Clinic.

Designate Cy Pres Funds

If there is an opportunity to do so, consider the Women's Employment Rights Clinic-Golden Gate University School of Law as a recipient of cy pres monies when resolving class actions.

Donate Stock or Appreciated Securities

Please contact Clinic Director Hina Shah directly. Speak with your financial advisor about possible tax benefits that might result from making this type of gift.

Make a Bequest

Include a gift to the Women's Employment Rights Clinic-Golden Gate University School of Law in your estate plan. For more information, contact Clinic Director Hina Shah directly.

WERC ALUMNI

CLINIC ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT

Students always wonder if there is life after the Clinic and Golden Gate. Here is a spotlight on one of our own:

PAMELA KONG

GGU Law 2002
WERC Graduate Law Fellow 2003 - 04

Pamela Kong is an attorney at the Oakland law firm of Sundeen Salinas and Pyle. She represents plaintiffs in employment cases. Through her firm, Pam has represented many low wage monolingual workers and continues to do so.

Pam has a BA from the University of California Los Angeles and lives in San Francisco. She was recently named a Super Lawyer and received the 2010 ACBA Distinguished Service Award for a Barrister. She currently serves on the Executive Committee for the Alameda County Barristers and was the District 3 representative for the State Bar's California Young Lawyers Association for the years 2007 through 2009. Pam is a native San Franciscan and fluent in Cantonese and Toison.

About Pam's experience in the Women's Employment Rights Clinic: My Clinic experience as a student cemented the direction my career would take. I gained a deep appreciation for employment practice and haven't looked back. The Clinic brought to life the concepts I learned in the classroom and the law became tangible. For me, it was one of those "ah hah!" moments. I finally understood what the practice of law was about and I truly fell in love with employment law. As a graduate law fellow, I tried my first case with the Clinic in my first year of practice. This experience was invaluable. I received very solid support and mentoring. The Clinic indisputably shaped the litigator that I am today.