The Fair Work Legal Clinic is a free civil legal aid clinic operated in partnership with Seattle University and the University of Washington schools of law. We educate, advise and represent individuals in employment law cases.
SERVICES WE PROVIDE
No-Cost Legal Consultation
Each workplace is different, and each worker has a unique story and challenges in the workplace. Every worker who meets with us receives an individualized legal assessment of their situation at work. We will discuss with the worker what rights they have to be paid fully, and work in a safe environment free from discrimination and retaliation. Clinic attorneys and staff will strategize with you about how to achieve your goals.
For workers who need to meet after work in the evenings, we offer monthly Community Clinics to provide in-person counseling. The Clinics are staffed by law students enrolled in the Seattle University/University of Washington Workers’ Rights Clinic and local volunteer attorneys from the employment bar. Our Clinics are offered in partnership with the King County Bar Association Neighborhood Legal Clinics.
We also offer workers resources and support to communicate with their employers or pursue claims on their own. These tools include writing demand letters, navigating government complaint processes, and assistance with filing lawsuits in Small Claims Court.
Small Claims Clinic
For workers who are seeking $5,000 or less from, the best path forward can be to file a lawsuit in the county Small Claims Court. The Fair Work Center Legal Clinic can guide workers through the Small Claims Court process, from beginning to end. We work closely with each worker to ensure they are fully prepared to pursue their unpaid wages and will advise them every step of the way.
For some cases that are especially complex or involve many workers, we can provide full representation. Our representation is client-centered and focused on the clients’ goals.
Legal Clinic Hours:
Monday: 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Tuesday: 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Wednesday: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Thursday: CLOSED FOR INTAKE
Friday: 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Drop-ins are also welcome, but we cannot guarantee you will be able to meet with a lawyer without an appointment.
Below are some recent examples of cases in the Fair Work Legal Clinic.
We recently met with a nail salon worker who came in initially asking about age discrimination. She described a situation in which a group of younger “interns” in the salon were getting all of the work. After some probing, it became clear that the worker herself was being paid well less than the minimum wage. Furthermore, it became clear that the “interns” were not being paid at all. So, what appeared to be a preference based on age was actually a preference for the unpaid workers. After several conversations with the worker, she has agreed to allow us to help her recover the wages she is owed and we hope to reach the “interns” as well.
In another case, a restaurant worker from a local brewery was referred to us from the Seattle Office of Labor Standards. The workers came in to talk about a time shaving issue, but as we probed, it became clear that there were many other issues at play. The Clinic will be representing this group of workers in recovering their pay and changing the practice at this large restaurant.
We have increasingly found that, once we speak to a single worker in a workplace, we begin to hear from many others in the same workplace. For example, a single African American worker from an airline came for legal counseling regarding race discrimination in the workplace. We were able to provide her with legal information and a description of enforcement options. Quickly thereafter several Korean workers from that same airline came in for counseling about age and national origin discrimination. We were able to connect the workers with a law firm to represent the whole group.
In another case, we counseled an adult entertainment worker and referred her to Seattle Office of Labor Standards for enforcement. Shortly thereafter, several more workers from the same establishment contacted us interested in collective action and organizing. Our Outreach team was able to provide a Know Your Rights training with enhanced legal services for the whole group. We have since connected them with community based organizations focused on organizing and policy advocacy.
We have increasingly made use of an advocacy tool that we describe as a “make good choices” letters. Rather than sending an individual “demand letter” on behalf of a worker, we send a letter on behalf of the Fair Work Center, letting the employer know that we are aware of the situation, explaining the law, and urging the employer to reconsider its decision. In one example, a local hotel employer planned to change its dispatch system for catering workers in a way that would impact older workers much more negatively than younger workers. In another case, a small employer was using a tip pool and incorrectly including supervisors and owners in the pool. The “make good choices” letters helped resolve the situation for the workers and reduced retaliation against individual workers.