News & Media

Jacqueline Cote & Walmart Announce Final Class Settlement Over Health Insurance Benefits for Same-Sex Spouses of Walmart Associates

BOSTON, MA - A federal judge today approved the $ 7.5 million class action settlement between Walmart and former Walmart associate Jacqueline Cote, that challenged Walmart’s lack of health insurance benefits for same-sex spouses of Walmart associates prior to 2014.

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Demos, CASA, ACLU of Maryland, Washington Lawyer’s Committee Applaud Attorney General Brian Frosh’s Immigration Guidance

BALTIMORE, MD – Today, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh issued guidance to Maryland state and local governments regarding the rights and obligations of law enforcement officials in immigration enforcement. The Attorney General’s guidance makes clear that the U.S. and Maryland Constitution govern and limit state and local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration enforcement, and that the Trump administration’s recent policy initiatives are constitutionally questionable. We agree with the Attorney General that law enforcement agencies face potential liability exposure if they seek to enforce federal immigration law. ICE detainer requests do not provide the requisite probable cause of criminality needed for local police to honor them without risking due process violations. We also agree with the Attorney General that the risk of unconstitutional racial profiling is increased when local police attempt to enforce immigration law, and that the federal government may not coercively threaten to take away funding if state and local jurisdictions refuse to enforce federal law. Moreover, honoring the constitutional rights of every person by refusing to enforce federal civil immigration law will increase community trust and public safety.

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Court Rejects Virginia Effort to Dismiss Suit Concerning Cruel And Inhumane Treatment of Autistic Individual

In an important development, a federal court in the Western District of Virginia largely rejected a motion by Virginia officials to dismiss a case against them brought by Reginald “Neli” Latson, a young African-American man with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability, seeking redress for cruel and inhumane treatment that he suffered while in Virginia prisons in 2014-15. The case was filed last year by the law firm of Buckley Sandler LLP and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

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Court Certifies Three Classes in Action Challenging WMATA’s Criminal Background Check Policy

Erick Little applied for a position as a bus operator with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) in 2013. He received a contingent job offer, subject to a background check. During his interview, he told WMATA about his 1987 drug conviction.

In 1987, Erick was 19 years old - not much older than some of the neighborhood little league football players he has now coached for many years.

Even though Erick’s interviewer assured him that his 26-year-old drug conviction would not be held against him, the job offer was rescinded. When WMATA took back its offer of employment, Erick felt ashamed and disappointed. As he recounted, “WMATA sent me, and many others, the message that the first mistake you make is the only thing that matters.”

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Committee Files Four Lawsuits to Combat Egregious Wage Theft Violations

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee is leading the battle against wage theft. Far too many workers in the Washington region are not paid adequate minimum wages, not paid required overtime hours, or not paid at all. These practices – collectively called wage theft – affect one in four low wage workers. Most workers who are victims of wage theft never recover their lost wages either because they do not know their rights, lack access to have counsel to assist them, or are fearful of retaliation. Undocumented workers are particularly vulnerable despite the fact that they are protected by wage and hour laws regardless of their documentation status.

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Important Development in Case of Worker Fired After Giving Birth

Kashawna Holmes learned that she had lost her job just days after giving birth to her son in 2014. She filed suit against her employer in December 2015, and last month the trial court denied her employer’s motion to dismiss. Washington Lawyers’ Committee staff attorney Christine Dinan explains why the court’s opinion is an important step forward in the case…

An Evening With Wesley Lowery

Few issues have grabbed headlines in recent years more than policing in America & its impact on the African American community. On April 26, Washington Lawyers' Committee Executive Director Jonathan Smith spoke with Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and author Wesley Lowery about his new book and what it is like for a young Black man to cover police in this era.

Federal Judge Grants Class Certification in Case Challenging WMATA's Use of Overly Broad and Punitive Criminal Background Screening Policy

Former African American employees and job applicants who were terminated from, or denied positions with, the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) as a result of a racially discriminatory and overly broad criminal background check policy will be permitted to proceed as a class.

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Staff Spotlight: Heather Kryzak

Over the past decade, Heather Kryzak has traveled from Washington, DC to Quito, Ecuador, and back—all the while serving communities in need. When she was a student at American University in DC, she worked as a legal department intern with the Central American Resource Center, assisting attorneys in providing low and no-cost legal services to the immigrant community. She also saw first-hand the struggles of immigrant restaurant workers in her job as a waitress. “I realized that the way you are treated at work impacts every area of your life” recalled Heather. “Long hours and unpredictable schedules make it hard to care for a family; low wages and late payments can lead to eviction.”

After college, Heather lived in Ecuador for three years, where she led education, health, and livelihoods programs in an underserved community outside of Quito. When she returned to DC, she wanted to continue working in a volunteer management and mentorship capacity while also providing direct legal services to the immigrant community. She found a perfect fit as the Workers’ Rights Clinic Coordinator.

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Banneker Bests School Without Walls by 1 Point in DC High School Mock Trial

In the closest DC-wide Street Law high school Mock Trial tournament final in its 45-year history, Banneker Academic High School won by one point over School Without Walls High School on Tuesday evening, April 11. In addition to Georgetown Law students who teach the Street Law classes, attorney mentors from Kaiser Permanente coached the Banneker team, and mentors from Fried Frank coached the School Without Walls team. The Public Education Project of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee coordinated all of the attorney mentors from 13 firms and organizations for 292 students on 30 teams at 12 DC high schools that competed in the three-round tournament this year.  Many of the mentors help law students throughout the year to teach the Street Law course, which surveys civil rights, consumer, family and criminal law for the first part of the year, and then culminates in more than two months of preparation for the Mock Trial. The mentor firms and organizations often also arrange field trips to their offices and courts, in addition to the trips to the law school the students take as a part of the class.

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