The Community Justice Clinic (CJC) represents low-income residents and communities of Buffalo on matters related to immigration, workers' rights, civil rights, and housing.
The clinic takes on both individual cases and “impact” litigation designed to bring about a change in the law. Its policy and community education projects are undertaken on behalf of community organizations and coalitions.
Wage theft – when an employee is denied wages, salary, or benefits they are entitled to under law – is unjust and illegal. However, often those who are impacted can’t afford lawyers to help recoup what they are owed. The Community Justice Clinic student attorneys negotiated a settlement for local restaurant workers to recoup back wages owed them.
In a related effort, student attorneys continue to advocate for New York State to eliminate the tip credit that allows employers to pay a lower minimum wage and disadvantages workers.
In October 2016, immigration agents conducted raids on four Mexican restaurants in Buffalo and arrested 25 workers. CJC took on the representation of four of those workers, all of whom have now received temporary protection from deportation. In June 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor filed suit against the workers’ former employer alleging minimum wage and overtime violations.
CJC has worked with a statewide coalition of workers’ rights organizations to pass the Securing Wages Earned Against Theft (SWEAT) Act. Wage theft is a pervasive problem for many low-wage workers in New York. But workers who try to recover lost wages are often left empty-handed when employers refuse to pay wage judgments. The SWEAT Act would help ensure that workers get paid what they are owed.