Welcome to the Fall/Winter 2016 edition of Vision + Action: Inside The Institute, published quarterly by the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA) and The Employee Rights Advocacy Institute For Law & Policy (The Institute). The Institute was established in 2008 as NELA's public interest organization to share NELA's mission and broaden our reach. The Institute advances employee rights through innovative legal strategies, policy development, grassroots advocacy, and public education. The Institute protects workers' access to the courts and promotes employee rights by influencing the broad, macro conversations that shape employment law.
The Institute Welcomes New Paul H. Tobias Attorney Fellow Elizabeth Colman
We are pleased to introduce you to Elizabeth Colman, who joined our staff on November 16 as the 2016-- 2018 Paul H. Tobias (PHT) Attorney Fellow. As our fourth PHT Fellow, Elizabeth will carry out The Institute's initiatives to protect workers' access to the courts and promote employee rights. She will devote much of her time to furthering The Institute's goal of ending forced arbitration in the workplace. Elizabeth, a 2015 graduate of Golden Gate University School of Law, has a strong commitment to workers' rights. At Golden Gate, she earned specialization certificates in Public Interest Law and Labor & Employment Law. During law school, she served as a summer associate with the Alliance for Justice, a Graduate Legal Assistant with the California Office of Legislative Counsel, and an extern with the National Employment Law Project. Prior to law school, Elizabeth spent nearly a decade working as a progressive political organizer and workers' rights advocate. Based in our Oakland office, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org (Tel: (415) 296-7629).
To help you get to know Elizabeth, we asked her what she was looking forward to as our new PHT Fellow.
I am very grateful to have the opportunity to serve as the
2016-- 2018 Paul H. Tobias (PHT) Attorney Fellow. I cannot imagine a better way to begin my legal career as an employee rights advocate. For me, the fight for workers begins with the fight for legal policies that serve to protect workers, rather than constrict them.
Having been raised in a household that, despite being fully employed, struggled with persistent food and housing instability, I know firsthand that workplace regulations are
about more than mere procedure---- they are legal policies that govern people's quality of life. The minimum wage rate determines whether a worker has enough
money to pay for housing and food, or must choose between housing or food. Paid family leave regulations determine whether a new mother will spend two days or ten weeks bonding with her new baby before returning to work. Rules regarding eligibility for workers' compensation inform whether a father hurt on the job can pursue those benefits while recovering, or if he will work through the pain and risk worsening his injury in order to put food on the table.
These are the stories of people's lives, and they demonstrate how policy acts as a powerful unseen force that can expand or severely restrict the countless choices that are available for workers and their families. Before law school, I spent almost ten years organizing in communities all across the country. In that time, I met thousands of people who, despite giving it everything they have, will likely never enjoy their fair share of the prosperity their labor helped create because the policies that govern their lives serve to stack the deck against them. Too many families have parents and children working multiple jobs, only to barely keep their heads above water. And when faced with unlawful treatment in the workplace, too many of those workers have their voices stifled and find the justice they seek and deserve to be practically unattainable.
Re-writing those rules to work for workers is why I became an employee rights attorney, and why I am so excited to begin my legal advocacy career at The Institute as a PHT Attorney Fellow. Here at The Institute there is a conscious awareness of what---- and who----- we are all working for.
The Institute's primary focus, eliminating forced arbitration in the workplace, is a campaign to ensure a fundamental guarantee for America's workers---- their right to have their grievances heard and fairly considered in a court of law. Access to the courts is essential for corporate accountability and for maintaining a safe and mutually beneficial work environment. It is also enormously important for maintaining the dignity of workers who have been wronged in the workplace and are entitled to make a public declaration against those who have done them harm.
As forced arbitration becomes more pervasive in the workplace, employers are normalizing the practice of silencing employees who would otherwise speak out. In my time at The Institute, I look forward to making sure those voices are heard.
To fuel Elizabeth and The Institute's battle against the injustices of forced arbitration in the workplace, please consider a year-end, tax deductible contribution to The Institute. You can donate online, by phone at (415) 296-7629, or by sending a check to The Institute, 2201 Broadway, Suite 402, Oakland, CA 94612.
Workers Beware: New Online Resource Raises Awareness About Forced Arbitration In The Workplace
As part of our ongoing strategic public education campaign to end forced arbitration in the workplace, The Institute has added a new resource to our website. Using an interactive display, "
Workers Beware: Forced Arbitration Can Happen To You
" currently provides information on 50 employers that impose forced arbitration on their employees. It is intended for the benefit of advocates, researchers, policymakers, and---- most of all---- workers.
If you know about an employer who belongs on The Institute's Workers Beware page or have a story to share about forced arbitration in the workplace, please contact Paul H. Tobias Attorney Fellow Elizabeth Colman (Tel: (415) 296-7629; Email: email@example.com).
Meet The Visionaries Of Employee Rights:
The Vision & Action Of Teri Chaw,
NELA & The Institute's Executive Director
By Leah A. Hofkin, Director of Development
At The Institute and NELA, we take every opportunity we can to express our gratitude to our dedicated donors, who are part of a loyal and growing network of individuals, law firms, foundations, and others who generously provide The Institute with resources that enable us to pursue our mission. Through "Meet The Visionaries Of Employee Rights," a regular feature of Vision + Action: Inside The Institute
, we learn more about the members of our community and why they care deeply about workers' rights.
This is a special installment of "Meet The Visionaries Of Employee Rights," which explores the legacy of Terisa E. Chaw, Executive Director of both NELA and The Institute. Teri will be retiring in July 2017. She has served as NELA's Executive Director for 26 years and led the founding of The Institute as NELA's charitable public interest arm in 2008.
Since Teri announced her retirement earlier this year, I have been engaged in a variety of thoughtful conversations about legacy, Teri's legacy specifically, and the future of employee rights advocacy. Teri has had an indelible impact on the careers of thousands of plaintiffs' employment lawyers and affected the lives of their clients, ordinary people who have been subjected to unlawful conduct at work. As Teri recognizes, "Work is something that touches almost everyone."
During her tenure, NELA and its 69 Affiliates have grown into a vibrant and forward-looking community of 4,000 colleagues and friends, and NELA is well-respected in Washington, DC and courtrooms across the country. I
n less than a decade, The Institute has emerged as the nation's preeminent employee rights advocacy think tank, promoting employee rights and protecting workers' access to the courts by influencing the broad, macro conversations that shape employment law. Together, and thanks to Teri, NELA and The Institute are effectively pursuing a shared mission of advancing equality and justice in the workplace, working hand-in-hand to bring about a future in which everyone who has or wants a job is treated fairly in the workplace, paid a decent wage, and works under safe conditions.
Teri's legacy goes beyond her many achievements, and there is no question that her record of accomplishment is impressive. As NELA and The Institute's Director of Development for seven years, I have been inspired by Teri's leadership in many ways, including in fundraising. She always is the first to pledge her personal support whenever The Institute launches a fundraising initiative, from our campaign each summer for The Paul H. Tobias (PHT) Attorney Fellowship Program to our year-end Vision + Action Campaign. Teri steps forward as a model for others, explaining "If you want others to invest in The Institute, you have to do so yourself. If the Executive Director is not making an investment in the organization, how can you convince others to do so?" Teri and her husband have been members of The Institute's Visionary Circle, which recognizes supporters who make an annual contribution of $1,000 or more, since the beginning. She also has involved her personal network of friends and family members in financially supporting The Institute's work, and we are very grateful to them for their generosity each year.
From my perspective, the primary reason Teri gives so readily to The Institute is her profound commitment to The Institute and the people whose lives we touch. As she told me, "I care passionately about The Institute. NELA and The Institute are two of my children. Like my two daughters, it is my responsibility to make an emotional and financial investment in them so they can realize their potential. The Institute has been a labor of love for me."
It is no surprise that Teri always has been interested in improving the lives of others and in promoting fairness. "We need to do something when something is wrong," she states. Before pursuing a career fighting for civil and workers' rights, Teri wanted to be a teacher, which is why planning the educational program for NELA's Annual Convention is one of her favorite activities. But soon after Teri began college in the early 1970s at San Francisco State University, a teachers' college, California faced a glut of teachers, dimming her original career prospects. "I asked myself," Teri explained, "where can I do the most good, and I thought I could be a civil rights lawyer." She transferred to the University of California, Berkeley, where as a student of sociology she focused on class and race-based inequities in employment, education, and housing. In law school, Teri immersed herself in civil rights and criminal justice issues
---- her priority then, as now, was "the little person."
After law school, Teri secured what she thought was her dream job working in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Although she was hired under the Carter administration, Ronald Reagan had become President by the time she started. After leaving DOJ, Teri worked for a number of leading civil rights and public interest organizations, including Equal Rights Advocates, the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., and the Pension Rights Center, where she had her first interactions with leaders of the new Plaintiff Employment Lawyers Association (PELA), which later became NELA. Teri was hired as NELA's then part-time Executive Director in 1991, after receiving a phone call from NELA's founder, Paul H. Tobias, who was operating NELA from his law office in Cincinnati. We know now that being Executive Director of NELA and The Institute are her real dream jobs.
Part of the job of an Executive Director is ensuring an organization's stability and managing growth, and Teri is seeing to it that NELA and The Institute are well-positioned for the long-term. Teri has been a driving force in strengthening NELA's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion by, among other things, involving newer and younger lawyers in leadership roles in the organization. Similarly, one of The Institute's longstanding priorities is cultivating the next generation of employee rights advocates. Teri frequently says that The PHT Attorney Fellowship Program is close to her heart. In naming The Institute's Fellowship Program after Paul Tobias, Teri guaranteed the legacy of someone who powerfully changed her life. She explains, "I see Paul's spirit and hope in our PHT Fellows, as well as his vision for a better workplace."
Teri has defined her legacy as helping to realize Paul Tobias' bold vision for NELA, an organization that levels the playing field for individuals whose workplace rights are violated and for the lawyers who represent them. Teri's legacy must also include The Institute itself, which expands the message of advancing equality and justice in the American workplace to a broader audience. Teri is our champion of employee rights.
Terisa E. Chaw is the founding Executive Director of The Institute and also serves as the Executive Director of NELA, The Institute's sister organization. Prior to joining NELA in 1991, Teri worked as an attorney with a number of public interest law organizations, including the Pension Rights Center (Washington, DC), the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (Washington, DC), and Equal Rights Advocates (San Francisco). In addition, she was a trial attorney for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where she litigated cases under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act. Teri has served on the board of directors of several nonprofit organizations, including the Alliance for Justice, the Asian Law Caucus, Child Care Law Center, National Committee on Pay Equity, and the Organization of Pan Asian Women. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and the University of San Francisco School of Law.
Alicia Haynes & Joanne Irby Join The Institute's Board Of Directors
We are pleased to announce that Alicia K. Haynes and Joanne Irby have been appointed to The Institute's Board of Directors. They join The Institute's other Board members Patricia A. Barasch (President), Bruce A. Fredrickson (Immediate Past President), Thomas J. Henderson, Diane S. King (Treasurer), Rebecca L. Salawdeh (Secretary), and Professor Imre Stephen Szalai.
Alicia Haynes is President of NELA, and practices exclusively in the area of plaintiffs' employment law in Birmingham, AL. She also serves on the executive boards of NELA-Alabama and the Labor and Employment Section of the Alabama State Bar.
A tenacious trial lawyer for almost 30 years, Ms. Haynes has successfully represented workers from every walk of life in cases involving sexual harassment, hostile work environments, and age, gender, race, and family status discrimination. Ms. Haynes has had two cases heard before the United States Supreme Court, which resulted in favorable outcomes for her clients. One of them, Ash v. Tyson Foods, Inc.,in which she represented two African American men who were discriminated against because of their race,
significantly changed the standard in employment discrimination cases involving promotion decisions. She is a frequent speaker on trial practice strategy and development.
Joanne Irby is the Chief Operating Officer of The Raben Group (TRG), which has worked with The Institute over the years on strategic planning and board development. Ms. Irby brings to The Institute more than twenty years of operations and organizational development experience across the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. Her personal calling to the human resources
field was about fairness and justice in the workplace. At TRG, Ms. Irby provides vision and leadership to a wide range of internal and external-facing efforts, including business operations, talent management, client service delivery, and special initiatives. Prior to joining TRG, Ms. Irby served as the Chief Operating Officer for the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), a national nonprofit advocacy organization. During her tenure, she stewarded CFED through its most comprehensive and ambitious strategic planning process, setting the stage for greater, more measurable impact. In addition to CFED, she has worked at the Association of American Medical Colleges, The George Washington University, and the Advisory Board Company.