EJC in the News: Immigrants vulnerable as recession spurs more bosses to shortchange workers

Those without legal status or English speaking abilities are often the victim of wage theft, and have been increasingly abused because of the recession. At the D.C. Employment Justice Center, the number of unpaid wage cases reached 317, a significant increase, said Lisa Guerra, the lawyer who handles such cases. Mackenzie Baris, lead organizer with D.C. Jobs With Justice, stated “The capacity of volunteers and nonprofit staff to be able to follow through on these cases is going to be limited given how big the problem is.” If they can locate ??????? ??? ???????? the contractor, the workers can sue in small claims court or D.C. Superior Court. Workers who lack the resources or know-how to pursue a legal case also can go to the District”s Office of Wage-Hour. The city”s court system is considered so favorable to workers that the employer in all five cases Guerra has brought to trial since she started at the D.C. Employment Justice Center in May has chosen to settle at the last minute. However, the Employment Justice Center is one of the few nonprofit groups that will take on such cases for a minimal fee. And as the only lawyer on hand to litigate them, Guerra must turn away far more workers than she can help. As for the city”s Wage-Hour Office, worker advocates complain that it moves so slowly it”s ineffectual.

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