In this month of Labor Day celebrations, I want to share the story of Andre, a District laborer.
Andre worked as a janitor, employed by a company whose professed mission is providing jobs to people with disabilities. Yet Andre, who has cognitive impairments, experienced repeated abuse and harassment on the job.
Andre’s employer did not allow him to take brief breaks to accommodate an injury, subjected him to verbal abuse, accused him of theft when he tried to use sick leave, and terminated him when he filed a discrimination complaint.
Andre’s situation worsened with COVID-19 and its economic fallout. His unemployment was delayed by months, due to the backlog in claims. And COVID made it infinitely harder for him to find new employment.
He is one of thousands of DC workers facing an equal justice crisis intensified by the crisis of pandemic and recession.
Our grantee Washington Lawyers’ Committee and their Workers’ Rights Clinic represented Andre in a successful unemployment claim, pursued his grievance, and negotiated a monetary settlement. They also continue to watch for cases involving the same employer, whose abuses may affect others. They continue their work through the hardships imposed by COVID-19 by temporarily moving the Clinic to a phone service – serving in new ways, even as local need for services outstrips capacity.
It is an example of how our grantees are adapting to extraordinary circumstances to meet an almost overwhelming demand. Our legal aid network is stepping up.
There is a long road ahead. COVID will leave lasting scars. Among them, racial wealth and income gaps are growing. Without significant advocacy and a tremendous amount of legal assistance, they will become locked in for another generation.
Employment will remain a central battleground to create more equity. Thank you for your continued support, standing with us for Andre and so many others.
Together for equal access to justice,
Kirra L. Jarratt
Chief Executive Officer