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Towards Justice

With your help: -We seek back wages, fight forced labor, and combat fraud -Engage with low-wage workers to fight the creative new ways employers are undermining worker power -Educate workers about their rights and help them identify illegal practices -Provide free employment rights consultations

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Strategic Policy Advocacy

Class

Employment 

Beneficiaries

Ethnic/Racial Minorities
Females
Hispanic, Latino Heritage
Immigrants, Newcomers, Refuges
Poor, Economically Disadvantaged, Indigent

Description

Towards Justice strategically engages with policy makers and public officials on issues that affect worker power and enforcement of workplace protections. That work can involve, among other things, (1) drafting comments to administrative agencies, including to the Colorado Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Labor; (2) testifying before state legislative bodies, as we have done in support of legislation to expand public enforcement of worker protections; (3) advocating before court administrators regarding access to courts for low-wage workers; and (4) drafting legislation, as we have done in support of legislation regulating no-hire, no-poach, and non-compete agreements, legislation that would create whistle-blower enforcement mechanisms for violations of state worker and consumer protection laws, and a city ordinance to expand city-level worker protections. We generally do not lead policy campaigns, but instead focus our resources on areas where we bring unique insight or expertise.

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Evidence of Program's Success

Examples of Our Work Include:
-Provide strategic guidance and drafting support at the national and state level for issues ranging from no-hire and no poach agreements in the fissured workplace to reforming arbitration laws in Colorado
Work with stakeholders to identify legislative changes related to Colorado's Wage Claim Act, salary basis, mechanic's lien protections, and other changes that build worker power
-Collaborate with Colorado District Attorneys to combat wage theft and better enforce workplace protections
-Call on the Polis Administration to Strengthen and Modernize the CDLE for the Benefit of Workers and Law-Abiding Employers in collaboration with local and national partners NELP, EARN, CO Fiscal Institute, and the Bell Policy Center.
-Use administrative processes to comment on regulations promulgated by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to ensure that the wage theft claim process, wage order, and strategic enforcement priorities represent worker needs
-Collaborate with Denver's Consumer Protection Division regarding the creation of a city ordinance to prohibit wage theft as an unfair and deceptive act or practice and presentation of a comprehensive plan for protecting workers from the scourge of wage theft in collaboration with the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters and the Korbel School at the University of Denver.

Litigation

Class

Crime & Legal 

Beneficiaries

Immigrants/Newcomers/Refugees
Poor/Economically Disadvantaged/Indigent
Ethnic/Racial Minorities
Hispanic, Latino Heritage
Immigrants, Newcomers, Refuges

Description

Our litigators help workers advance legal claims that address systemic injustice. We use antitrust, anti-slavery, fraud, wage-and-hour, and common-law challenges to address the wide variety of practices that nickel-and-dime low-wage workers out of their hard-earned wages. We have represented a hundred thousand childcare workers alleging wage suppression, tens of thousands of immigrant detainees alleging forced labor, and hundreds of construction workers, shepherds, manicurists, janitors, and kitchen hood cleaners. We are leaders in challenging anti-competitive practices that reduce worker bargaining power and support marginalized people who challenge structural impediments to their advancement.

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Evidence of Program's Success

Victory for Au Pairs
With Towards Justice and Boies Schiller Flexner LLP as counsel, our au pair clients reached a settlement requiring the au pair sponsor
agencies to pay $65.5 million and to clarify that the purported "stipend" for au pairs is actually a minimum wage and au pairs can be paid
more. This victory will benefit the class of nearly 100,000 au pairs that Towards Justice represented, as well as future au pairs who will
be better able to bargain for well-deserved wages. This could end up being one of the largest class action settlements ever for minimum
wage workers, and one of the largest ever involving antitrust violations in the labor market.

Victory for Shepherds
In November 2019, Towards Justice announced a major settlement on behalf of sheepherders. Currently, thousands of sheepherders work
in the United States on temporary visas under which they--like hundreds of thousands of other guestworkers--lack the ability to leave
their employment and work somewhere else, one of the key foundations of dignity and bargaining power in the workplace. Under the
settlement, the government will no longer allow employers to fill the permanent labor need for sheepherders with temporary visas. This is
a major step toward eliminating a system under which sheepherders are indentured to the same employer without a path to permanent
residency.

Victory in the Colorado Supreme Court
In late June 2019, Towards Justice and our co-counsel at Killmer, Lane, & Newman achieved a fantastic win in the Colorado Supreme
Court in a case brought exotic dancers who claimed they were misclassified and denied even minimum wages for their work-work
from which dance clubs and the large corporate entities that own them have allegedly profited a great deal. When the dancers sued to
recover their unpaid wages, the defendants sought to get out of the case by trying to enforce arbitration agreements that the dancers
purportedly signed. The problem was that the big company that owned the clubs had never signed the arbitration agreement; it sought
to enforce the agreement based on an obscure doctrine called "equitable estoppel" that courts around the country far too frequently use
to allow corporate defendants to benefit from arbitration agreements they never signed. Together with our co-counsel, Towards Justice
convinced the federal court not to follow the rule that several other federal courts had applied and instead to certify the issue directly to
the Colorado Supreme Court. After our briefing and argument, the Colorado Supreme Court in a 7-0 opinion sided with the workers and
held that arbitration agreements are no more enforceable than any other type of contract. This case has broad ramifications for workers
and consumers across the country who may now be better able to enforce their rights in court.

Victory for Workers Who Sleep at the Jobsite
In September 2019, in a class action case brought by an immigrant worker who provided caretaking services to adults with disabilities,
Towards Justice defeated summary judgment and won a worker-favorable victory defining how employees should be compensated for
overnight work under federal law. The court found that an employer can designate overnight hours as unpaid sleep time only if it can
show that the employee received five consecutive uninterrupted hours to sleep more than half the time. The court also found that an
employer must provide private sleeping facilities where the employee can shut and lock the door during sleep time if that time is to be
uncompensated. This is an important victory for our clients and for all residential care workers who frequently sleep at the jobsite.

In the Community

Class

Employment 

Beneficiaries

General Public
Immigrants/Newcomers/Refugees
Poor/Economically Disadvantaged/Indigent
Ethnic/Racial Minorities
Immigrants, Newcomers, Refuges

Description

While our litigators seek back wages, fight forced labor, and combat fraud, our team also engages with low-wage workers to understand their challenges and the creative new ways employers are undermining worker power and nickel and diming their workers. We also proactively educate workers about their rights and help them to identify illegal practices, provide free, confidential employment rights consultations, and connect wage theft victims to the partners best positioned to help. Those partners are part of our non-traditional network of enforcers, which includes private collaborating attorneys and a variety of municipal, state, and federal enforcers. When workers win, we work together to publicize their success, raise awareness of the scourge of wage theft, and deter future abuse.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

Some examples of our work include:
-Conduct "justice reconnaissance" to continuously engage with workers and community partners o-n the front lines to help spot legal issues and respond to new and unique abuses
-Provide know-your-rights trainings to low-wage and immigrant workers in communities across Colorado
-Provide capacity building for partner organizations to help them issue spot workplace justice issues in collaboration with workers and clients
-Provide technical support and regular Continuing Legal Education training-including our annual Wage Justice Day-to build the capacity of the private bar to represent low-wage and immigrant workers in wage and hour and other workplace justice cases
-Train and encourage District Attorneys to participate in wage theft prosecutions and deter wage and hour violations through community engagement and communications
-Generate informational and educational media coverage of the scourge of wage theft and empower workers to defend their rights
-Co-Chair the Colorado Wage Theft Task Force with El Centro Humanitario para los Trabajadores
-Raise awareness of workplace justice issues in a variety of contexts including but not limited to:
Freedom Network Conference, Immigrant Detention and Labor Trafficking, April 2018, 2019
NELA Wage and Hour Seminar, Fighting the Enforceability of Arbitration Clauses, April 2019
Harvard Law School, Unrigging the Labor Market Convening, July 2018
Detention Watch Network, Plenary Session Speaker, June 2018
United Brotherhood of Carpenters Western District Payroll Fraud Conference, May 2018
Mexican Consulate in Denver Annual Labor Rights Week
Curious Theatre Community Panel, Building the Wall, April 2017
AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee Conference, Workers Center Roundtable, May 2017
Colorado Women's Legislative Breakfast, February 2016
The Center on Human Rights Education's 18th Annual Symposium, Colorado Case Study of Informal
Labor, April 2017
Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition 2016 State Assembly, Wage Theft and How to Fight Back, July
2016
Southwest Bar Association, Colorado Department of Labor and Employment Wage Claim Process,
March 2016
Plaintiffs Employment Lawyers Association, Wage Theft & the New CDLE Procedure, March 2015

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