Civil Advocacy Clinic Pursues Justice for Low-Wage Workers

CAC students at court
2018 CAC Student Attorneys Allison Schlom and Priya Patel, both in their third year, celebrate outside D.C. Superior Court after obtaining a default judgment in a long standing wage theft case on behalf of a domestic worker.

Students in AUWCL's Civil Advocacy Clinic (CAC) work on an array of civil litigation matters in the District of Columbia and Maryland. In recent years, the CAC has deliberately focused on issues of economic justice, which has added many workplace law and wage theft cases to the docket.

As part of its worker justice docket, the CAC often represents individual clients in wage theft cases filed in small claims courts – representing workers who would otherwise find it incredibly difficult to obtain counsel. Typical clients include low-wage workers employed as domestic workers, restaurant workers, and construction workers whose employers failed to pay them for all of their hours worked, the minimum wage, and/or overtime compensation. In recent months, the clinic has also taken on a number of cases involving employers’ failure to provide statutorily required sick-leave to their employees.

This work helps fill a critical gap in representation, given the sizeable low-wage workforce in the D.C. metro area, the epidemic of wage theft, and the deficit of pro bono legal service providers. Through their work on these cases, students are developing valuable litigation and trial skills, while appreciating the many structural challenges that low-wage workers encounter.