Clinics & Externships: Women's Employment Rights Clinic

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.

Spring 2022 Clinic Application

Watch the GGU Clinics' virtual open house, October 19, 2021

FAQs for Law Students

 

 


LATEST UPDATES

Trucking Companies Sued for Non-Compliance With Basic Labor Standards

On August 23, 2021, WERC filed suit in Alameda County Superior Court in the case of Xiao, et al. v RJJ Trucking Corporation, et al.  WERC represents five Plaintiff truck drivers, who have been willfully misclassified as independent contractors.  In so doing, the Defendant trucking companies, operating out of the Port of Oakland, denied our clients the fundamental protections they are due as employees under California law.  WERC students are diligently at work on the case, seeking to recover the wages that these workers earned, but were never paid, and the business expenses that they were improperly required to cover. 

 

Senate Bill 321: The Health and Safety for All Workers Act On Governor’s Desk

The Clinic, as legal counsel to the California Domestic Worker’s Coalition, drafted SB 321:  The Health and Safety for All Workers Act.  It would establish the first guidelines for health and safety in the domestic work industry in the state's history and make recommendations to the Legislature and the Governor on how to expand health and safety coverage for domestic workers.  Domestic workers are the only workers who are excluded from coverage.  The bill passed with no opposition in the Legislature and is now awaiting the Governor’s signature.  Read here about Domestic Workers on the Importance of Health and Safety Coverage.

 

Professor Hina Shah testified before the California Legislature's Select Committee

Professor Hina Shah, who directs the Women’s Employment Rights Clinic, testified before the California Legislature’s Select Committee on Corporate Board and California Workforce Diversity to address The Future of Diversity in California Business on Friday, October 1, 2021. Her remarks focused on the overview of affirmative action, implicit bias and recommendations for the Legislature to consider to diversify the workforce. 

OUR WORK

WERC, with a staff of 12 law students and two supervising attorneys/professors, has provided approximately 4,000 pro bono hours each academic year representing low-wage workers.  We train our students to understand their role as problem-solvers in collaboration and in partnership with the community, through a rigorous pedagogy around client and community centered lawyering.  Our students gain valuable litigation experience representing low-wage workers before administrative agencies like the Labor Commissioner and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing and in court. Through education, empowerment, litigation and policy reform, WERC is at the forefront of strengthening and expanding protections for low-wage workers.


DIRECT LEGAL SERVICES AND LITIGATION

Each year, WERC students and attorneys represent numerous workers in their individual and collective actions against employers. Since the clinic’s inception, we’ve successfully restored close to $10 million dollars to low-wage workers.  In the last fiscal year, we’ve helped workers recover $478,000 in unpaid wages.  We represent workers in various industries including domestic work, residential facilities, restaurants, retail, and janitorial.  With the exception of workers compensation cases, the Clinic focuses on all employment matters including wage theft, discrimination including pregnancy discrimination, harassment and retaliation, family leave and unemployment compensation. 


POLICY ADVOCACY

Since the 1990s, 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.  The Clinic has drafted and/or provided technical and legal guidance to the Coalition in it’s passage of the following bills:

  • SB 321 - Employment Safety Standards, advisory committee, household domestic service, Signed by Governor (September 2021) (advisory committee to make recommendations and guidelines for expanding health and safety standards for domestic workers)
  • SB 2314 - The Domestic Work Rights Implementation Act, Signed by Governor (August 2019) (provides budget appropriation to increase resources for enforcement of domestic worker laws)
  • SB 1015 - Domestic Worker Employee, Labor Standards, Signed by Governor, (Sep. 12, 2016) (making overtime rights permanent for domestic workers)
  •  AB 241 - Domestic Worker Employee, Labor Standards, Signed by Governor, (Sept. 23, 2013) (expanding overtime protections to domestic workers who were historically excluded)
Residential Care Sector:

At WERC, we believe that a key missing piece in the ongoing dialogue and advocacy on caregiving is workers’ rights. We issued a policy report in 2017 report, Understaffed and Overworked: Poor Working Conditions and Quality of Care in Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly, linking the exploitative nature of working conditions in Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFE) to poor quality of care and life outcomes for residents.

Working conditions are an integral and essential component to older adults’ well-being.  We are members of the strategic enforcement partnership with the Labor Commissioner. In addition, we continue to explore broader public policy advocacy to address the widespread noncompliance with basic labor standards. 


EDUCATION, EMPOWERMENT, TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE

WERC has developed multi-lingual training materials and programs for workers, organizers, community-based staff, legal advocates and government agencies. 

  • Developed Know Your Rights materials including for domestic workers, caregivers
  • Developed Train the Trainers workshop for CA Domestic Workers Coalition
  • Trained low-wage worker legal advocates
  • Trained investigators and attorneys on the residential care sector at the Labor Commissioner’s Office and California Department of Justice Civil Rights Division
  • Provides technical assistance to worker advocates on litigating domestic work and residential care cases

 

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 Immigrants, 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.

FACULTY & STAFF

 

Hina Shah

HINA SHAH

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

Professor Shah has over twenty-five years of experience in employment litigation working for private union-side law firms and nonprofit organizations and substantial appellate experience as a Staff Attorney at the Ninth Circuit.  At the Clinic, Professor Shah has helped transform the Clinic into a strategic partner with grassroots, community-based worker organizations to enhance their capacity for systemic change.  The Clinic is legal counsel to the California Domestic Workers Coalition, helping expand and protect rights for domestic workers in California.  Professor Shah has long standing expertise in wage and hour law.  She has conducted trainings and provided technical assistance and expertise to legal advocates in litigating cases throughout California, has trained state and local enforcement investigators, and has been consulted by the Legislature regarding various wage and hour bills. 


 Kate Raven

KATE RAVEN

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

Before joining the Women’s Employment Rights Clinic at Golden Gate University, Professor Raven spent nearly a decade in the Alameda County Public Defender's Office. She defended both felony and misdemeanor clients at every stage of the criminal process, litigating hundreds of evidentiary motions and ten jury trials to verdict. Professor Raven has a longstanding commitment to fighting for economic justice. Beyond the work defending low-income clients at the Public Defender’s Office, Professor Raven spent the decade prior advancing the rights of workers and immigrants in a variety of settings, from organizing with janitors and cafeteria workers for fair wages in Palo Alto, to providing humanitarian aid to migrants crossing the border in the remote Arizona desert, to coordinating a coalition of immigrant rights groups and volunteering through Pride at Work (an AFL-CIO affiliate) in San Francisco. Professor Raven earned her J.D. from UCLA School of Law where she specialized in Critical Race Studies and Public Interest Law and Policy and her B.A. from Stanford University.



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
 

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.

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

 

COMO OBTENER AYUDA

No somos una clínica sin cita previa. Trabajadores buscando asistencia deben llamar y hablar con un estudiante de la clínica que le hara una entrevista preliminar por teléfono. Trabajamos con una variedad de temas relacionadas a empleo incluyendo violaciones de salario y horas, discriminación, acoso, acomodación de embarazo, leyes de licencia familiar y seguro de desempleo. Nuestro énfasis es en servir clientes de bajos ingresos. No tenemos límite de ingresos. No trabajamos con casos de quejas de seguro de compensación laboral.

Teléfono: 415-442-6647 (también puede dejar mensaje después de las horas de negocio)

 

FAQS FOR LAW STUDENTS
What do students do in the Clinic?

Students get exciting, hands-on experience representing low-wage workers in various types of employment disputes. Clinic students, under the supervision of Professors Hina B. Shah and Kate Raven conduct telephone intakes, assess and investigate cases, interview, advise and counsel clients, research and write substantive legal memoranda and/or legal briefs, and advocate for clients as needed. Students generally assist several 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. 

 
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 and legal organizations, former clients, the San Francisco Bar Association, and other organizations. Clients also learn about the Clinic through media coverage. 

 
Who can apply for the Clinic?

The Clinic is open to 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 flex and 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 Professors Hina B. Shah and Kate Raven. Deadlines for applications are published each semester in the law school news. There is a mandatory immersion training on the first Friday of the semester.  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 = 10 clinic hours per week (total of 4 units)
  • 3 Clinic units = 12 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 and retaliation. We emphasize a practical approach to these subject areas, with extensive discussion of California law as well as federal protections. Skills training includes interviewing, client-centered counseling, case theory development, case planning and fact investigation, legal writing and movement lawyering. 

 
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 interviewing counseling, legal research and writing, case investigation, witness interviews, and settlement negotiations.

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

Yes. We accept a limited number of students as advanced 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

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

 
Professor Kate Raven

Visiting Associate Professor & Staff Attorney
E-mail: kraven@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. Below are some spotlights:  

 

 Nikia Schultz

NIKIA SCHULTZ

Nikia Schultz (Class of ‘21) is a Legal Graduate on the Eviction Defense Project (EDP) at Legal Services of Northern California (LSNC). The mission of LSNC is “to empower the poor to identify and defeat the causes and effects of poverty within their communities.” I represent clients in eviction lawsuits and other housing matters across 23 counties in Northern California. My role focuses on eviction defense, appeals, community legal education, impact litigation, and advocacy. Regarding what she gained from the clinic, she says, “The clinic experience gave me the confidence and skills to take on this litigation-focused role with my current organization. I learned valuable skills for client-centered lawyering and general case management, while gaining hands-on experience by working on serious cases during the clinic.”

Her advice for current law students is: If I could go back and tell myself anything during law school, I would say, “Talk to your professors as much as possible. Ask the questions, discuss, complain, and celebrate. They are always there for support. They truly want to see you succeed.”

 

Chriselle Raguro

CHRISELLE RAGURO

Chriselle Raguro (Class of ‘15) is the Executive Director of the Filipino Community Development Corporation, whose mission is to prevent the displacement of the Filipino community in SF's SOMA and Tenderloin neighborhoods by advocating for affordable housing and access to resources, grassroots community organizing, and capacity-building of low-income residents. She credits her time in WERC with teaching her how to have a collaborative relationship with her clients and the community. At WERC, she learned that the role of a legal advocate is not just to win cases, but to make space for, bolster, protect, and build power for the people. 

Her advice for current law students is: People want to see you succeed, so don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Respect your boundaries. Adjust your pace instead of your purpose - you’re not in law school to win, you’re there to learn.

 

Julie Cummings

JULIE A.K. CUMMINGS

Julie A.K. Cummings (Class of ‘16) is an attorney advisor with the Social Security Administration with the Honolulu Office of Hearings Operations, where she drafts legal decisions for administrative law judges (ALJ) presiding over disability determinations, analyze and review evidence, and advise the ALJs in complex legal issues. While in the WERC, Julie represented a low-income worker at a hearing before the Labor Commissioner. She credits her experiences at WERC with helping her become a better version of herself in the legal profession. She says: “I learned from one of the best – Professor Hina Shah. She was passionate about her work and detail-oriented, both traits that served me well and that I tried to emulate.” 

Her advice for current law students is: To chill a little because things will all work out. I was pretty intense.

 

NEWS


WERC Trains Uber/Lyft Drivers on AB 5

Group photo at Uber/Lyft Training

 Prof. Shah and Taylor Massie    Prof. Kirsch and Taylor Massie

On January 27, 2020 WERC student Taylor Massie and Professors Hina Shah and Anna Kirsch co-facilitated a presentation for Uber, Lyft and other app-based drivers on their rights under Assembly Bill 5 with Partnership for Working Families and Gig Workers Rising.  For too long employers have exploited workers by misclassifying them as independent contractors, driving income inequality and diminishing worker power. AB 5 guarantees that workers are properly classified so they have  basic labor protections, such as minimum wage, overtime and safety net benefits.  A recent study found that Uber drivers are making less than the minimum wage after deducting fees Uber charges and out of pocket expenses such as vehicle maintenance.  https://www.epi.org/files/pdf/145552.pdf

 
Investigative Reporting: Rampant Wage Theft in Residential Care Homes

Reveal -- the Center for Investigative Reporting has done a two-day series on rampant wage theft in senior care facilities in California and throughout the Country. The Clinic has tirelessly advocated on behalf of these workers for over a decade in litigation and policy matters. We are excited about this coverage -- which runs in the Washington Post, New York Times, & U.S. News and World Report and the podcast will run on 450+ public radio stations across the country. We're hoping to use this coverage to push for some legislative and regulatory changes.

 
MCLE Training on Implicit Bias in Employment

Prof. Shah will be conducting an MCLE Training on Implicit Bias in Employment sponsored by the Aids Legal Referral Panel and the State Bar Labor & Employment Section on Thursday, November 29, 2018 at the Bar Association of San Francisco.

 
Professor Shah speaks about immigration relief for undocumented workers who are victims of crime with Bloomberg Law.

(Reproduced with permission. Published July 5, 2018. Copyright 2018 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) http://www.bna.com)

 

Professor Hina Shah has been appointed to the California Lawyers Association Labor & Employment Law Executive Committee.

Professor Hina Shah, Director of the Women's Employment Rights Clinic, has been appointed to the California Lawyers Association Labor & Employment Law Executive Committee https://calawyers.org/Labor-and-Employment-Law. Members of the executive committee organize and lead the section's publications and programs, which include the California Labor and Employment Law Review and a radio program broadcast on KALW, called "Your Legal Rights" which Professor Shah has been a guest on.

 

Professor Hina Shah blogs on the recent Dynamex Operations West v. Superior Court ​for the American Constitution Society.

Read the blog here.

 
WERC submits amicus brief in Troester v. Starbucks Corporation, Inc. on behalf of low-wage worker advocates

The California Supreme Court will hold oral arguments in Troester on May 1, 2018. The Court will decide whether California employers can avoid paying workers for up to 10 minutes of work per day. A ruling in this case will greatly impact California's 4.7 million low-income workers who cannot afford to forgo a single dollar of their earnings.

 
Press Release:

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

 
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.

 
Workers at Care Facilities Not Paid Minimum Wage or OT, report says, San Francisco Chronicle
 
Study Exposes Troubling Conditions In CA Care Facilities, New American Media
 
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.

 
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.