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Helping Workers Assert Their Rights

*Name changed to protect client's identity.

The DC Bar Foundation is proud to fund DC legal services organizations that support and uplift marginalized communities. One of those organizations is First Shift Justice Project, whose mission is to help working parents in low-wage jobs assert their workplace rights to prevent job loss. First Shift Justice Project better serves caregiving workers by using a preventive, client-centered approach to reach families, educate them about their rights, and enable them to exercise their rights without shame. By educating and supporting working parents to assert their rights before they lose their jobs or their workplace stress becomes untenable, First Shift helps them safely maintain their employment, health, and family commitments. Read on to learn about how First Shift helped Rosa* retain vital working hours at her job.

Rosa is a mother living in Ward 4 with her spouse and her four children. She called First Shift Justice Project for help with pregnancy discrimination after learning about them from her healthcare provider at Mary's Center. Rosa works as a cook and line worker at a DC restaurant, but she was having problems with the kitchen manager, who reduced her shifts by half: from 4 days a week to 2 days a week. When Rosa asked him why he was reducing her hours, he said that he did not want her to get hurt at work while pregnant and that he was worried about liability if she did get hurt on the job. Even though Rosa explained that she understood her body and knew she would be able to work her regular hours for 4 days a week, the kitchen manager ignored her and continued reducing her hours.

When Rosa came to First Shift, she spoke to First Shift attorney Emily Chong. Emily explained that although it was her right to request a workplace accommodation during pregnancy, such as a reduced schedule, the manager could not legally force her to accept a pregnancy accommodation when she had not asked for one. After hearing that, Rosa asked for help in advocating for her old shifts back—she explained that she wanted to contact the restaurant owners for help but was worried about the language barrier, as the owners speak English and Rosa speaks Spanish.

Emily helped Rosa draft a note to the owners to request her previous shift schedule in Spanish and English. When Emily followed up with Rosa a couple days later, Rosa happily updated Emily that she sent the English note to the owners and that it was successful. The owners spoke to the kitchen manager, and Rosa had her past shift hours back. Because her hours were restored, Rosa was able to take her normal paycheck amount back to her family.

To learn more about the Foundation's grantees and the critical work they do, please visit our website.


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