Highlighting the EJC’s Pro Bono Program
Every Wednesday, the EJC holds workers’ rights clinics to provide low-wage workers with walk-in legal advice on employment issues. Occasionally, the EJC is able to take on some of these cases in-house and provide full-representation to a worker. In other instances, the EJC refers some of these cases out to its pro bono partners for full-representation. The EJC’s pro bono partners include law firms, law school clinics, and other legal service providers.
The EJC’s pro bono program has proved to be a great resource for workers that need extensive legal assistance that a non-profit like the EJC does not have the resources to provide. When a worker comes in to clinic and has a case that an advising attorney believes might be ideal for pro bono representation, the attorney notifies the Legal Director. If the Legal Director, during a review of clinic cases, determines that the case has potential to be referred out for pro bono representation, he or she assigns the Pro Bono Coordinator with referring the case out. The Pro Bono Coordinator conducts a third and final review of the case and, if it is determined the case might be meritorious, refers it out to one of EJC’s pro bono partners.
Once a case is referred out to a pro bono partner, the firm/law school clinic/legal services provider will make an assessment as to whether they can take on the case. If they decide to take on the case, the worker then signs a retainer with the pro bono partner. Depending on the case, an EJC attorney may serve as co-counsel with an attorney from the pro bono partner on the case. No matter whom the attorneys are, the EJC stays in touch with our pro bono partners on a quarterly basis to remain updated on the status of the case.
One example of a successful pro bono referral is the case of Jose R. Jose’s wife visited our workers’ rights clinic on Jose’s behalf while he was in the hospital. Jose worked at a local restaurant. While lifting a tray at work, he pulled a tendon and severely injured his arm. Jose remained at work for the next few weeks, at which point his arm became infected as a result of the injury. The EJC referred Jose to Ashcraft & Gerel, a local plaintiff-side law firm. Ashcraft & Gerel was able to mount a successful worker’s compensation claim against the restaurant. Ultimately, the restaurant agreed to settle before the case went to a hearing. The restaurant, through its insurance company, paid Jose a total of $97,500 for medical expenses and lost wages due to injury.
Another example of a successful pro bono referral involves eight janitorial workers that came to EJC’s workers’ rights clinic with wage theft complaints. The workers were hired by a cleaning company to clean a local university. The workers were not paid for any of the hours they worked nor were they paid the overtime wages owed. Eventually five others workers joined them in their complaint. These thirteen were referred to a small union-side law firm. This firm and an EJC attorney worked together to co-counsel the case. Ultimately, the cleaning company agreed to settle out of court. The workers were able to recover the entirety of their demands.
The EJC currently has over 60 open cases that it has referred to its pro bono partners. Over the upcoming months, the EJC will work with our pro bono partners to ensure these cases see a similar outcome to the cases discussed above. The EJC will also continue to take on new cases to litigate in-house, to refer to our pro bono partners, and to co-counsel alongside our pro bono partners. The EJC remains committed to its pro bono program as a means of providing high-quality legal services to workers in the D.C. area.
If you are a legal services provider in the D.C. metro area and are interested in assisting workers in employment cases on a pro bono basis, please contact EJC’s Interim Pro Bono Coordinator, Aamir Mansoor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.