Fighting for fairness for people in need
NCLEJ serves low-income families, individuals, and communities by advancing the cause of economic justice through ground-breaking, successful litigation and policy work around the country. We have provided legal representation, support, and advice to people living in poverty and their advocates since 1965, including securing the landmark Supreme Court decision in Goldberg v. Kelly.
50th Anniversary Celebration Video
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Court of Appeals Rules that Seizure of New York Resident’s Lottery Prize is Barred Under the Fair Labor Standards Act
-Posted November 2015
On November 19, 2015, the New York State Court of Appeals decided that the seizure of half of New York resident Walter Carver’s $10,000 lottery prize was barred by the Fair Labor Standards Act, which protects individuals working in exchange for welfare benefits and food stamps. NCLEJ authored the friend of the court brief on behalf of the New York City Legal Aid Society, MFY Legal Services, and many others. The court’s decision ensures that New York residents who work government-assigned jobs in exchange for welfare must be paid in accordance with federal minimum wage standards. Read more
USDA Signs Off on Plan to Provide Retroactive Benefits to Georgians Wrongly Deprived of Food Stamps
-Posted November 2015
In large-scale win for low-income Georgia families, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) signed off on an agreement brokered by NCLEJ that will provide retroactive food stamps to tens of thousands of families wrongly deprived of benefits. The case, Melanie K. v. Horton, challenged a system-wide failure by the Georgia agency to process food stamp applications and renewals. On August 5, 2015, Judge William S. Duffey, Jr., of the Northern District of Georgia ordered the class action settlement, which also provides that the state agency must process applications and renewals for food stamps within the time required by law. The USDA acquiesced to the plan on November 19, 2015. Read more
Class Action Obtains Victory for Thousands of New Yorkers
-Posted November 2015
NCLEJ helped to secure a $59 million settlement in Sykes v. Mel S. Harris & Associates, a federal class action challenging widespread abusive debt collection practices in the New York State courts. The settlement, announced on November 12, is unprecedented in its scope and represents a major victory for low-income New Yorkers. Approximately 355,000 people are expected to benefit. NCLEJ is of counsel to New Economy Project, counsel for the plaintiffs, in this matter, along with MFY Legal Services and Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady. Find more information in this New York Times article and editorial.
Favorable Appeals Court Decision Obtained for New York Medicaid Recipients
-posted October 2015
On October 15, 2015, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued an important decision in favor of low-income elderly and disabled New York Medicaid recipients who seek fair hearings to challenge New York State’s termination of their Medicaid. The lower court had refused to stop the State of New York from terminating without notice Medicaid for recipients who miss a fair hearing they have requested to challenge the closing of their Medicaid case. The problem arose because many disabled and/or elderly Medicaid recipients do not receive the appointment that schedules the fair hearing. Yet, when the recipient misses the fair hearing, her Medicaid is terminated without further notice. Plaintiffs claim that termination without such a post-default notice violates both due process and the Medicaid Act. The Second Circuit set aside the lower court’s decision and sent the case back to the lower court for further consideration. This win impacts hundreds of New York Medicaid recipients each year. NCLEJ filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the Medicaid recipients who brought the case. Read more
Greg Bass Addresses Conference of Georgia Legal Aid Advocates on Housing Discrimination
-Posted October 2015
At the invitation of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, NCLEJ Senior Attorney Greg Bass traveled to Atlanta on October 2nd, where he addressed advocates gathered at an annual conference at the Georgia State Bar offices on using the theory of disparate impact discrimination in challenging government policies that violate the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). The presentation was prompted by the June 2015 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that validated the use of disparate impact analysis in assessing FHA violations of discrimination based on race and other factors.
Margarita Rosa Engages with New Audiences
-Posted October 2015
NCLEJ Executive Director Margarita Rosa participated in several recent events that introduced NCLEJ to new audiences. On September 30th, she moderated a panel at Fordham University School of Law, sponsored by the New York Women’s Foundation, on the release of the Voices from the Field report: Blueprint for Investing in Girls & Young Women (in photo, far left). On October 1st, Margarita was the keynote speaker at the Credit Suisse Latino Professional Network’s event marking Hispanic Heritage Month. She spoke on the topic “Build a Legacy While Building a Resume: How Giving Back Contributes to Career Advancement.” On October 7th, Margarita participated in a panel co-sponsored by the Safety Net Project at the Urban Justice Center and the Women's City Club of New York at Fordham Law School entitled, “This Bridge Called My Back: Women of Color and the Fight for Economic Security.” All three events produced very positive feedback, including this comment from the New York Women’s Foundation, “Everyone in that room walked away inspired, informed, and with a clearer vision of what work needs to be done to better support girls and young women.”
Greg Bass Conducts Webinars on the Americans with Disabilities Act
-Posted September 2015
Senior Attorney Greg Bass conducted two recent webinars on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). On August 13th, he conducted a webinar for legal services and disability rights advocates in Georgia on using the ADA on behalf of low-income public benefits clients with disabling conditions. These individuals need help navigating their way through complex program requirements in order to keep the public benefits that are critical to their subsistence. On September 22nd, he conducted a similar webinar on the use of the ADA for legal services and disability rights advocates in Washington state.
Court Approves Class Action Settlement to Improve Access to Food Stamps in Georgia
-Posted August 2015
On August 5, 2015, Judge William S. Duffey, Jr., of the Northern District of Georgia approved the class action settlement in Melanie K. v. Horton. NCLEJ filed the case to challenge Georgia’s system-wide failure to process food stamp applications and renewals in a timely manner. Under the settlement, Georgia must improve its timely processing of food stamp applications until it achieves 96% on-time processing of applications in six out of seven quarters. Additionally, applicants who were wrongfully denied food stamps or renewal of food stamps during the time period of the lawsuit and who were subsequently approved will be provided retroactive benefits, subject to USDA approval. Local counsel David Webster and attorneys from DLA Piper’s Atlanta office joined NCLEJ on this case. Read the Judge’s Order here.
NCLEJ Files Amicus Brief on Behalf of 13 Advocacy Groups
-Posted July 2015
On July 23rd, NCLEJ filed an amicus curiae brief in the New York State Court of Appeals on behalf of 13 economic and social justice organizations. The issue on appeal in Carver v. New York is whether New York State’s requirement that a former public assistance recipient who worked in exchange for his cash assistance and food stamps must reimburse the state out of lottery winnings he received after he left public assistance. We say New York State’s attempt to recover this money violates the minimum wage provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and that Mr. Carver was an employee under the FLSA’s broad and liberal definition. The brief complements NCLEJ’s work in United States v. City of New York, where the Second Circuit, in a first-of-its-kind decision, found that people who work for their public assistance grant are entitled to protection against workplace discrimination and harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Mr. Carver is represented by the Empire Justice Center. The brief was drafted by pro bono volunteer Kelley Nevling and NCLEJ’s Dodyk Fellow, Leah Lotto. Read the brief here.
Equal Pay Today! Campaign is hiring!
-Posted July 2015
The Equal Pay Today! Campaign (EPT), a project of Tides Center, is a collaboration of 17 national, regional and state-based women’s legal advocacy and grass roots organizations (including NCLEJ) that have come together to raise awareness and activate a power base to achieve equal pay policy reform for women. The Campaign is now seeking a Campaign Manager. For more details and how to apply see the Position Announcement.
Article by Margarita Rosa is the Featured Story in BoardSource’s E-Newsletter
-Posted July 2015
Executive Director Margarita Rosa’s article, “Call Your Board To Arms” appeared as the featured story in BoardSource’s electronic newsletter, The Spark!, on July 21, 2015. Margarita wrote the article while she was Executive Director of the Grand Street Settlement. It was first published in the New York Nonprofit Press (NYNP) and has appeared several times in NYNP’s electronic newsletter. The article addresses the role of nonprofit Boards as advocates for their organizations and for the causes their organizations represent. Read more
Federal Appeals Court Affirms that Food Stamp Applicants Can Sue For Timely Benefits
-Posted July 2015
NCLEJ and Greater Hartford Legal Aid staff and friends
In a major victory for food stamp applicants, the U.S Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed on July 6th that applicants can hold a state agency accountable for failing to provide food stamps in a timely manner. (The federal law requires states to decide applications and issue benefits within 30 days of application, and seven days for those with emergency needs.) The decision came in Briggs v. Bremby, which challenged Connecticut’s widespread delays in processing applications and issuing benefits, leaving families to go hungry while awaiting food stamps. The federal District Court in Connecticut had ruled for the food stamp applicants and ordered the state to comply with federal law, but the Commissioner of the state agency appealed. The victorious food stamp applicants are represented by NCLEJ and Greater Hartford Legal Aid. Read more
Congratulations, Kevin McCarthy and Camille Holmes!
-Posted June 2015
|Gerald Hassell and Kevin McCarthy||Camille Holmes and Henry Freedman|
On June 3rd, BNY Mellon Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel Kevin McCarthy and NLADA Director of Leadership and Racial Equity Camille Holmes were honored at NCLEJ’s 50th Anniversary Awards Dinner at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers. Thanks to emcee Jeffrey Toobin and to all who made the dinner such a great success—nearly $800,000 was raised to support NCLEJ’s work to promote fairness and dignity for those in need!
Class Action Settlement Requires Public Benefits Information to be Accessible to Persons Who Are Visually Impaired
-Posted May 2015
As a result of a federal class action settlement in Rafferty v. Doar, New York City and State agencies will begin providing information about food stamps and Medicaid in a variety of alternate formats that are accessible to low-income persons who are blind or visually impaired. The case was brought by NCLEJ and Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and related civil rights laws. The settlement will ensure that all low-income New York City residents who are blind or visually impaired will have independent and meaningful access to critically important information about these vital public benefits. The parties have submitted the proposed settlement (pdf and Word) to the court and will seek its approval. Support to NCLEJ for this class action was provided by New York Community Trust. Read more
NCLEJ Announces Margarita Rosa as Its New Executive Director
-Posted March 2015
NCLEJ is pleased to announce the hiring of Margarita Rosa as its new Executive Director. Margarita brings significant nonprofit and governmental experience to NCLEJ, having headed the Grand Street Settlement, located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, for the past two decades and having previously served as the New York State Commissioner of Human Rights from 1990-1994, among other roles. Margarita will assume responsibilities as Executive Director in April 2015 from Mary R. (Gina) Mannix, who has served as Interim Executive Director of NCLEJ since August 2014 when she took over that position upon the retirement of Henry Freedman. Please join us in welcoming Margarita to NCLEJ! Read more
NCLEJ's June 3rd Awards Dinner to Honor Kevin McCarthy and Camille Holmes
-Posted March 2015
NCLEJ Releases Report: “Empty Judgments: The Wage Collection Crisis in New York”
-Posted February 2015
NCLEJ, together with the Legal Aid Society and the Urban Justice Center, released a report on February 25, 2015, showing the difficulties low-wage workers face in collecting their stolen wages. “Empty Judgments: The Wage Collection Crisis in New York” details how unscrupulous employers often evade paying wage judgments, even when a court or the Department of Labor has ordered an employer to pay back wages to workers. The report advocates for the passage of the SWEAT bill (A5501) to create a wage lien in New York State. The New York Times outlined the report’s findings here. Read the full report
NCLEJ and Empire Justice Center Enforcement Actions Extend Relief for Needy Residents of Nassau County, NY
-Posted January 2015
Under a federal court order entered in January 2015 approving a revised settlement agreement, the Nassau County Department of Social Services must demonstrate compliance with its obligations to process applications for food stamps, Medicaid, and cash assistance in a timely manner, execute new case sampling procedures, and disclose updates regarding implementation of a corrective action plan. Plaintiffs retain the right to enforce the defendant’s compliance. The agreement was reached following months of negotiations under the supervision of a Special Master appointed by the Court following NCLEJ and Empire Justice Center’s filing of a motion for enforcement in 2014. Read more
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Rafferty v. Doar Settlement Notice for NYC Residents
Notice of a federal court settlement requiring New York City and State agencies to provide information about Food Stamps and Medicaid benefits in alternate formats for persons in New York City who are blind or visually impaired. Access below:
NCLEJ is a grantee of