Browse the latest Pro Bono Opportunities at The Legal Aid Society.
NOTE: These opportunities are only available to attorneys affiliated with firms that have an established pro bono relationship with The Legal Aid Society.
If you are interested in working on one of these matters, please contact the Pro Bono Counsel at your law firm to receive authorization and check conflicts.
Our client is an organization that focuses on the study of Haitian Creole language. It offers online and in-person classes to children, youth, and adults in Haitian Creole, including interpretation, and translation services for multinational corporations, non-governmental organizations, and governmental organizations.
This organization seeks assistance with formal registration of various service marks, and subsequent enforcement of its rights relating to these marks. In June, 2021 our client discovered that another organization is also offering Haitian Creole instruction and using a name and acronym that are substantially similar to those of our client. This has caused confusion among members of the community and our client would like assistance with enforcing its rights against the unauthorized use of its unregistered word marks.
Pro bono counsel is needed to assist our client with the registration of marks used by the organization as source identifiers of its services and with the enforcement of rights of their name. The client wishes to move expeditiously in order to eliminate any confusion caused by the actions of its competitor and continue its important work in the community.
Legal Aid’s Criminal Appeals Bureau represents a man whose wife passed away unexpectedly on March 12. She died intestate, so he will likely inherit whatever property she has, which might include a Bronx co-op apartment. Our client began serving a sentence in 2017 for several late-night commercial burglaries that netted, at most, an IPad or a few hundred dollars. He has a completely non-violent record, driven by a history of substance abuse. Our client is currently incarcerated at a prison upstate and needs assistance to navigate the probate system. Legal Aid will not be co-counsel on the matter; the firm will sign a separate retainer with the client. Our client’s Criminal Appeals attorney will be available to provide background information and an introduction to the client.
The Legal Aid Society represents 38 year old man who has lived in the same apartment for his entire life. His mother owned shares of stock in the corporate cooperative that owns the building he lives in, which under the corporate by-laws gave her the right to sign a proprietary lease agreement and live in this apartment. His mother passed away around a decade ago, but no one challenged his right to “inherit” his mother’s shares and become a party to a proprietary lease until relatively recently.
Around a year ago, the cooperative brought an eviction proceeding against him alleging that he was not the shareholder and that they were electing to terminate his tenancy. He went to Surrogate’s Court to try to obtain an order saying that he was entitled to the shares. Our understanding is that the cooperative board is challenging what he did in Surrogate’s Court on the grounds that the type of proceeding he initiated has a jurisdictional limit of $75,000. They believe the shares to be worth more than that. His eviction case was thrown out on a technical defense but we anticipate that the co-op board will re-file the case soon. If he has the shares, the housing court judge in the first case signaled that our client will likely also be able to keep the apartment.
Our client’s sole source of income is from SSD. He has several severe physical disabilities. He has dialysis treatment twice a week for his kidneys. He also has high blood pressure. He suffers from a heart condition and had what he described as “minor” heart surgery around June or July. He also reports that he had the novel coronavirus over the summer. His brother, who lives with him in this apartment and is also vulnerable to eviction at the moment, has asthma and diabetes.
We are seeking pro bono assistance to represent our client in the Surrogate’s Court proceeding he filed pro se, or to file a separate Surrogate’s Court proceeding if necessary. Interested volunteer attorneys will need to sign an engagement letter directly with the client. Legal Aid will not be co-counsel on the matter, but an attorney from Legal Aid’s Housing Unit will be available to provide guidance and support.
The New York State Department of Labor (DOL) referred this client to Legal Aid. Our client, a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) in her late thirties, was employed by an agency that provides in-home medical professionals, including LPNs, to patients who need them. One of our client’s permanent assignments was treating a young child with a myriad of medical issues who lived with her mother and father. Over the course of about six months, Ms. Our client raised several issues to her superiors at the home healthcare agency which were never resolved and which led to her no longer working at the agency. First, she worked a significant amount of overtime hours but the agency refused to pay her overtime. After unfruitful advocacy with her superiors, she reached out directly to the agency’s CEO to ask for her overtime pay. He told her that she could choose between receiving the overtime money or her job.
In addition to the overtime issue, our client repeatedly reported ongoing neglect by the agency and other agency LPNs as well as parental neglect of the young patient for whom she cared. Despite reporting this ongoing neglect to her superiors, nothing was ever done to address these issues. In one instant, she filed an incident form about another LPN who left the patient with her feeding tube out of her body, draining onto the bed around her, a clear dereliction of a nurse’s duty to her patient. She reported this and other incidents to her superiors who did nothing. Our client also believed that the child’s parents were starving their child. Our client raised this issue with the parents and her superiors, telling her superiors that she wanted to call Adult Protective Services. They told her that she couldn’t do that; it was up to the child’s doctor to do so. Our client was afraid that continuing to work on this case would put her license at risk if the issues remained unaddressed. She requested to be re-assigned to another patient multiple times to at least three different superiors, only to be told that she should remain on the case and that she would eventually be re-assigned. Finally, on October 25, 2019, when our client arrived at her patient’s house, the child was screaming because she was starving and the night nurse had given the child something that she was allergic to – which the parents were aware of but did not tell the night nurse. Our client called several supervisors at the agency, reported the extreme neglect, and demanded to be removed from the case. They asked her if she could Uber some food for the child; she had on numerous prior occasions bought food for the child and was never reimbursed. One of her superiors called the mother and father, and the father left work early to relieve our client and bring food for the child. The child’s mother apparently believed our client had called the Administration for Children’s Services and told our client to leave the home before the father arrived. However, our client felt she couldn’t leave the child unattended so awaited the father’s arrival before she left. She was assured by her superiors that she would be reassigned to another case. In the past, when a family and our client did not get along, she had been reassigned. After
October 25, 2019, however no one from the agency would accept or return her calls for new placements.
It was only after the father of her patient called the CEO that our client was able to return to her job, still without the overtime pay she was owed. Our client had filed a complaint with the New York State Department of Labor (DOL) in or about August 2019. DOL is investigating our client’s overtime and retaliation claims and referred this matter to Legal Aid due to the whistleblower retaliation claim. Pro bono counsel is sought to file a lawsuit on behalf of this client. The lawsuit would most likely be filed in New York Supreme Court but could potentially be filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York. Working with an experienced Legal Aid employment law attorney, the volunteer attorney will have the opportunity to draft and file the complaint, engage in discovery, potential motion practice, depositions, settlement negotiations and represent the client at trial if the case does not settle. The whistleblower case statute of limitations will run on October 25, 2021.
Legal Aid represents a Russian speaking worker in his late forties who was employed as a security guard at a company from about October 2016 through about June 16, 2020. In about June 2018, he began receiving paychecks from a different entity, although his supervisor, assignments and duties all remained the same. He was never paid 1.5 times his regular rate of pay for his overtime hours, in violation of state and federal labor laws. Additionally, near the end of his employment, he was improperly transitioned from being a W-2 employee to a 1099 independent contractor, and when he raised the issue with his supervisor, he was told that he had to agree to it or be fired.
The Legal Aid Society sent a demand letter to our client’s employer in hopes of resolving the matter and that letter has been ignored. Pro bono counsel is sought to file a lawsuit in federal court in the Eastern District of New York, alleging that our client’s employer 1) failed to pay him overtime wages, pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 207 and New York Labor Law §§ 190 et. Seq., 12 N.Y.C.R.R. 142.2-2 and 2) misclassified him as an independent contractor under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et. seq. and New York Labor Law §§ 190 et. seq. The volunteer attorney, working with an experienced Legal Aid employment law attorney will have the opportunity to draft and file the complaint, engage in discovery, potential motion practice (this may be resolved on a motion for summary judgment), depositions, settlement negotiations and represent the client at trial if the case does not settle.
This client is a 74-year old widow who moved back to New York City after her husband passed away and immediately sought work. She secured a job as a customer service representative via a placement agency, with a company that operates a call center. Our client has a hearing impairment and uses hearing aids in both ears. Upon beginning her training for the customer service job, our client told the trainers and supervisor that she had a disability and explained that due to her hearing impairment, she wore hearing aids in both ears. The trainers and supervisor assured our client that her hearing would not pose a problem and that, if it did, she could be reasonably accommodated.
As part of her orientation, our client observed another customer service representative while she made and took calls on “the floor,” where customer service representatives worked. The floor was crowded and noisy and our client found it difficult to hear the call through her left ear because of the background noise. She approached the trainer to advise her of the challenge the crowded room posed; the trainer informed someone in human resources and the supervisor, each of whom subsequently assured our client that she could be accommodated if her disability so required. Just a few days later, our client observed another representative making service calls and experience the same hearing problem and once again she approached her supervisors for assistance. Although they assured our client once again that could be accommodated, no one at the company took steps to discuss possible options with her. On or about August 21, 2019, our client tried to address the problems she was having hearing through her left ear while on the floor. She informed her supervisor that she had made an appointment with her audiologist and intended to bring her headset with her so her audiologist could see the equipment she was using and adjust the hearing aid accordingly. The supervisor yelled at our client and accused her of failing to notify anyone of her hearing impairment. Our client challenged her supervisor’s assertion, noting that she had informed the company and the supervisor in particular, of her hearing issues both verbally and by disclosing her disability in the paperwork she filled out at the outset of her employment.
The following day, after Ms. Peters again had difficulty hearing while on the floor, the supervisor approached our client and told her that she wanted to assign her to a different job that would require less time on the phone and on the floor. Our client expressed interest in the job but despite promising to follow up, the supervisor never did. Instead, our client was sent out onto the floor the next day and again had difficulty hearing. Once again, she advised her supervisors of the challenges she was facing. Hours later, she was called into the human resources office and put on the phone with the supervisor who told her, in sum and substance, “if you cannot hear then you can’t do the job that you were hired for and cannot work here.” The supervisor then indicated that she was terminating our client’s employment with the company, effective immediately. Our client protested and asked for a reasonable accommodation, but the supervisor rebuffed her request. Instead, the supervisor stated that our client could not be accommodated, argued that the company was not legally required to do so, and reiterated, falsely, that she had never been made aware that our client had a hearing impairment. Our client was distraught and asked the supervisor to reconsider, indicating that she needed the job. The supervisor refused and instructed her assistant to escort our client out of the building.
Pro bono counsel is needed to draft and file a complaint in the Eastern District of New York alleging that this client was terminated because of her disability and that the employer failed to reasonably accommodate her, as required by law. The volunteer, working with an experienced Legal Aid Employment Law attorney, will engage in client interviewing, complaint drafting, settlement negotiations, court appearances and discovery, including drafting demands and taking and defending depositions.
Legal Aid is seeking pro bono counsel to assist a thirty-five year old former restaurant employee recover unpaid wages from his former employer. Our client started working in a restaurant in the Bronx on November 2015, with a work schedule of 60 hours per week and a salary of $600 per week. By January 2016, our client’s work schedule fluctuated between 72 and 84 hours per week. He was always paid in cash at the end of each week but he never received the payment of overtime premiums or spread of hours pay, nor did he receive the mandated wage notices. Our client left his employment in March 2021 due to his employer’s refusal to pay for overtime hours, the minimum wage of $15.00 per hour and the employer’s refusal to hire an assistant chef who would assist our client in the performance of his duties.
On behalf of this client, Legal Aid sent a demand letter and notice of legal claims to the employer in July 2021 and received a response from the restaurant’s counsel, who denied having any records of our client ever working for the restaurant. To this date, no settlement negotiations have taken place. Our client does have in his possession one W-2 for the year 2020, which was given to him by one of the owners of the restaurant.
Legal Aid’s client is due a substantial amount of underpayment of wages, including overtime, spread of hours, interest, liquidated damages and statutory penalties. Pro bono counsel, working with an experienced Legal Aid employment law attorney will have the opportunity to participate in doing client interviews, drafting and filing a summons and complaint in the SDNY, engaging in pre-trial discovery and court mandated settlement conferences.
Last Updated: 19 January 2022
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