Monday, 15 June 2009

Day Laborer Wage Clinic redresses abuse of immigrant employment rights

A legal services organization in the United States encountered a serious access to justice issue involving its immigrant population. The legal aid attorneys discovered that there was a street in a major city where immigrants gathered daily to be "picked up" in trucks by employers to do landscaping, construction work and housekeeping chores.

In spite of the fact that United States laws require employers to pay at least a minimum wage regardless of whether a worker is in the country legally, employers often refused to pay these day laborers the wages they had earned. Due to a combination of factors, including ignorance of their legal rights and fear of threatened deportation if they complained, many of these immigrants simply did nothing and allowed their employers to benefit from their work, without having to pay for it.

In response to this gross inequity, the legal service organization opened a Day Laborer Wage Clinic and called upon the local bar association for assistance in staffing it. With the help of volunteers, pro bono lawyers and paralegals, the Clinic is open one night a week where immigrants, primarily non-English speaking, can come without any appointment for assistance in enforcing their employment rights and in obtaining the wages illegally withheld by their employers.

Employers are quickly learning of the existence of the Day Laborer Wage Clinic and that its legal aid and pro bono attorneys, paralegals, and interpreters will not tolerate the abuse of immigrant employment rights.

Posted by Patricia Blair
IBA Pro bono and Access to Justice Committee


  1. I believe the clinic referenced operates out of Stamford Connecticut and is run by Connecticut Legal Services.

  2. It is very important not only to guarantee legal aid for those in good health, but to grant legal aid to users who are either unable, impaired or having a chronic disease that might become an impediment to a fair presentation before an authority or a court of justice. I have some experience with persons with hearing defficiencies or deaf people who happened to be immigrants and I have encountered some of the problems that might arise when an interpreter is not present. It is very essential in police hearings or in connection with a presentation before a committee or an official agency. In other cases of informative character it is always a good idea to have an interpreter/ a sign language specialist who can pass the information from the representative of the public on to the handicapped applicant who very often has a language problem in relation to the language of the country of residence. These services should remain for free for the handicapped and immigrants and they are regulated as such in Scandinavia. The relation between the legal represenative and a handicapped who at the same time is immigrant is very important to be established on the basis of mutual trust and empathy. Discrimination can often arise when the two actors are not communicating at the same level. They should communicate as equal individuals and not as parent and child.
    Best regards,

  3. The clinic referred to in the article is the Stamford Day Laborer Wage Clinic, a project of Connecticut Legal Services, Inc. The clinic began in 2007 and operates the second and fourth Wednesday of each month from 6pm to 8pm. We see anywhere from 15-35 workers per clinic. Community Volunteer interpreters are paired with volunteer paralegals, law students and attorneys to work with individual workers. Not only do pro bono attorneys help out at the clinic, they have provided a variety of other services including:preparing mechanics liens, representing the workers in small claims court and taking some of the cases with larger damages and/or multiple employees to federal court.

    We are hoping to enlist the aid of collection attorneys to help us collect unpaid judgements.

    If you have any questions about the operation of the clinic or would like to volunteer, please contact:

    Nadine Nevins, Managing Attorney
    Connecticut Legal Services, Inc.
    211 State Street
    Bridgeport, CT 06604