Webinar Recording: Exposing Wage Theft Without Fear: A Discussion of Retaliation & How to Combat It.

Exposing Wage Theft Without Fear: A Discussion of Retaliation & How to Combat It.

Hosted by the National Employment Law Project, September, 19, 2019




Stephanie Gharakhanian serves as Special Counsel to Workers Defense Project where she has worked since 2013. WDP is a worker center with offices in Austin, Houston, and Dallas that organizes construction workers and their families to defend their labor and civil rights and achieve fair employment. During her time at Workers Defense Project, Stephanie has been part of numerous campaigns to win local policies that advance the rights of working people and immigrant families, including the recent statewide campaign to win paid sick time ordinances in Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio. In 2018, Stephanie was also elected to the Austin Community College District Board of Trustees. Stephanie has a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Notre Dame and a law degree from Northeastern University School of Law.

James (Jim) Rogers is the Deputy Commissioner for Worker Protection at the New York State Department of Labor. Worker Protection includes the Division of Labor Standards, The Division of Safety and Health, the Division of Immigrant Policies and Affairs, the Bureau of Public Work, the Office of Special Investigations and the Joint Task Force on Worker Exploitation and Misclassification, a multi-agency effort to protect particularly vulnerable workers. Before joining the Department of Labor, Jim was Senior Advisor and Special Counsel to New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. Prior to serving in that role, he served as Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice under former Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo where he managed the Labor Bureau, Environmental Protection Bureau, Health Care Bureau, Civil Rights Bureau, Charities Bureau, and Tobacco Compliance Bureau. From 2003-2007, Jim was President of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys (United Auto Workers Local 2325), a professional union with a membership of 850 attorneys who represent poor families in New York City.  He was also a member of the Executive Board of the UAW’s statewide Community Action Program and a founding member of the coalition that overhauled New York’s laws governing the representation of children in family court. Previous to that Jim was a public defender for the Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Defense Division in Bronx County for nearly 10 years. Prior to that, he served as counsel to the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees. He began his career as an associate at the law firm of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver and Jacobsen.

Veronica Mendez Moore is a Co-Director at Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL; Center of Workers United in Struggle), a Workers Center in Minneapolis. For over 10 years, she has organized and developed leadership with low-wage workers to fight for fair wages, working conditions and a voice on the job in different industries across the Twin Cities and worked to shift the balance of power between low-wage workers of color and the large corporations that drive our economy. CTUL plays a crucial role in the labor movement, creating innovative, new models of organizing that re-organize the economy to build more power with and for workers. Most notably, CTUL organized with retail janitors across the Metro Area resulting in Target implementing a Responsible Contractor Policy with its cleaning contractors as well as industry-wide wage increases. This policy is the first of its kind in this industry nation-wide and ensures organizing rights for janitors who clean Target. Following this, the Twin Cities has become the only metropolitan area in the country where the majority of this industry is union.

Sarah Leberstein recently joined the staff of Make the Road New York as a senior employment and workplace justice coordinator in the Westchester Office. From 2008 to 2016 Sarah worked at the National Employment Law Project, a research and advocacy group for low-wage workers and the unemployed.  Her work at NELP focused on improving and enforcing labor standards, with particular emphasis on home care and domestic workers and the on-demand economy, outsourcing and independent contractor misclassification. Her publications include Upholding Labor Standards in Home Care:  How to Build Employer Accountability into America’s Fastest-Growing Jobs (2015) and Rights on Demand: Ensuring Workplace Standards and Worker Security in the On-Demand Economy (2015).  Her writings and commentary have appeared in major national media, including The New York Times, National Public Radio, US News and World Report.  Sarah has also worked at the Office of Labor Policy and Standards, NYC Department of Consumer Affairs, and Fordham Law School’s Stein Center for Ethics and Public Interest Law. Sarah is a graduate of Wesleyan University and Fordham Law School.   From 1999 to 2005 she organized healthcare and building service workers with the Service Employees International Union.

Sophia Zaman is the Executive Director of Raise the Floor Alliance (RTF) where she advocates for policies that advance justice for low-wage workers & grows strategic resources for the Chicagoland worker center movement. In 2017, she was part of an effort to win the Responsible Jobs Creation Act, landmark legislation in Illinois that set protections against discrimination, wage theft, and perma-temping in the temporary staffing industry. Sophia brings over 5 years of experience organizing on issues pertaining to racial, economic, and gender justice. Before joining RTF, she was the elected President of the U.S. Student Association, where she represented over one million college students at the White House, Department of Education, and Congress on policies related to free and universal higher education for working-class students of color. In her free time, Sophia is also a collective member with Chicago Desi Youth Rising, where she empowers youth ages 14-21, who trace their heritage to South Asia & the diaspora, to be social change agents. She is the proud daughter of her Bangladeshi immigrant mama, who taught her to always seek justice and live purposefully.

Winifred Kao is Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus’ Litigation Director. She also leads our workers’ rights program. Before coming to Advancing Justice – ALC, Winnie worked at a union-side labor and employment law firm where she primarily represented hotel, restaurant and food and commercial workers and unions in a wide variety of labor, employment, constitutional, and class-action cases. Winnie was previously a trial attorney for the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division where she litigated housing and public accommodation discrimination cases. She also served on detail as a Special Assistant United States Attorney in the Sex Offense and Domestic Violence Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, DC, and was an extern for the Honorable Gladys Kessler in the US District Court for the District of Columbia. Winnie has worked as a community organizer for labor and civil rights groups. She is a graduate of Yale College and the University of Michigan Law School where she was a member of the Michigan Law Review.

She has won commendations and awards for her work from numerous organizations including the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the University of Michigan Law School.

Senior Staff Attorney Laura Huizar joined the National Employment Law Project in 2015, and supports NELP’s efforts to create a good jobs economy by providing legal and technical assistance to local, state, and national campaigns to raise the minimum wage and to enforce federal overtime regulations and other protections.  Her background includes a variety of social and economic justice-related work, including an Equal Justice Works Fellowship at LatinoJustice PRLDEF, where she represented low-wage immigrant workers in litigation and assisted community groups seeking policy change. Before attending law school, Laura worked for JUNTA for Progressive Action in New Haven, Connecticut, focusing on local economic development and immigrant worker advocacy. As a Marvin M. Karpatkin Fellow with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Racial Justice Program, Laura supported litigation and conducted legal research related to debtors’ prisons, the school-to-prison pipeline, and other major sources of racial injustice in the U.S. Valued for her expertise on living and minimum wage and immigrant worker issues, Laura has been quoted by Bloomberg, New Republic, CBS News, Newsweek, and more. Laura is admitted to practice law in New York.

Sara Cullinane is Director and Co-founder of Make the Road New Jersey (MRNJ) and NJ state director of its sister c4, Make the Road Action (MRA). Founded in late 2014, MRNJ has built a powerful grassroots movement for immigrant and worker justice, operating two organizing hubs in Elizabeth and Passaic, NJ that also provide legal and support services, adult education and youth development programming to 8,000 immigrant families annually. In the past year, MRNJ mobilized 15,000 people to take action in NJ; knocked on 13,000 Latinx doors through MRA to help flip two House seats, and won six key state laws and policy changes: expanding access to financial aid to Dreamers in New Jersey, the divestment of New Jersey state pension funds from private immigration detention companies, $3.1 million public investment a state pilot program to provide legal counsel to detained immigrants, a $15 minimum wage hike that includes teen workers, landmark anti-wage theft legislation and a sanctuary directive in New Jersey. Previously, Sara was a staff attorney and Equal Justice Works fellow at Make the Road New York, where she practiced wage and hour law. She holds a JD from NYU School of Law, where she was a Root-Tilden-Kern public service scholar.  Before attending law school, she worked as a community and labor organizer and as a health advocate at Make the Road New York. She is a commissioner on the New Jersey Census Complete Count Commission and was Co-Chair of Governor-Elect Phil Murphy’s Transition Team’s Law and Justice Committee. She lives in Newark, NJ.

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