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D.C. Legal Aid Lawyers See Uptick in Wage Violation Cases

Posted Mar 19, 2010 5:30 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Legal aid lawyers in Washington, D.C., are dealing with a spike in wage violation complaints, leading at least one nonprofit to train workers to gather evidence to help their legal cases.

Several legal aid offices have been affected, the Washington Post reports. The Northern Virginia office of the Legal Aid Justice Center has hired a third lawyer to help handle in its wage-theft cases, while the D.C. Employment Justice Center has seen a nearly 20 percent increase in such cases.

Although numbers on the extent of the problem aren’t available, the Post says, “there are signs that the recession has prompted more employers to shortchange their workers, either by failing to pay the promised amount or by offering less than minimum wage in the first place.” Particularly vulnerable are construction, restaurant and janitorial workers, especially those who are undocumented immigrants or people who don’t speak English.

Lisa Guerra, the lawyer who handles wage cases for the D.C. Employment Justice Center, told the Post she is so busy that she has to turn away more workers than she can help.

The group D.C. Jobs With Justice has launched a new effort to help shortchanged workers, in part by training them how to gather information for legal claims, the story says. The group also plans to picket contractors accused of cheating their workers. Another idea: Companies and government agencies that hire offending employers will be asked to apply pressure so they meet their legal obligations.

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