2013 Advocacy Examples

Here are a few examples of the successes achieved for our clients in 2013.

Employment

  • Our client had worked for almost 60 years as a migrant farmworker. Due to the years of physically demanding work, the client injured his shoulder. His agricultural employers, however, did not offer insurance and the client could not afford to pay for the surgery. The client obtained a commercial driver’s license to escape farm work. In 2010, the client accepted employment in Michigan driving produce for an agricultural employer. Once the client started working, however, he was not given work as a driver. Instead, he was assigned to hand harvest in fields where there were no bathrooms or hand-washing facilities. He reported that he was not paid for all the hours he worked and that he was not provided all the hours of work that he had been promised. In addition, his employer assigned him to substandard housing. FLS successfully negotiated a settlement on the client’s behalf regarding these violations of the Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and corresponding state wage and hour laws.
  • In a typical "end-of-season" case, a migrant worker called FLS from a labor camp to report that the grower had refused to issue the final pay checks to the migrant work crew that was ready to return to Florida. In addition, the employer had demanded that the crew vacate the camp immediately without receiving their final checks or the "bonus" that had been withheld from their previous weeks' wages as a incentive for them to complete the harvest season. After FLS contacted the employer and explained the workers' rights to be paid all wages when due, as well as their rights per the Michigan "Lock-Out Law," the employer issued the crew their final pay checks together with all "bonuses" earned. 
  • Our client was a farmworker here in Michigan on an H-2A visa to perform work at a single agricultural employer. We negotiated the client's return to work following initial "termination" by foreman/crewleader and subsequently advised the client on a "voluntary termination" document that he was required to sign in order to return to Mexico for visit. He was able to leave for Mexico and return to his job during the season without difficulty.
Housing
  • A migrant farmworker family rented housing from their agricultural employer during the harvest season. The client lived in the migrant labor housing with his wife, their two teenage sons , and their teenage daughter. The client had recently had surgery and had a catheter. The client was told by his supervisor that an unrelated family was going to be placed in his unit with his family. FLS advocated on the client’s behalf and the client’s employer did not place another family with the client's family.
  • A farmworker living in a migrant camp called us to complain that the propane gas would consistently run out several days after being filled, and that the camp residents would then go several days without propane until the tanks were filled again. Per his request, we made a complaint (without naming the client) to the state's Migrant Labor Housing division. After MLH conducted a camp inspection and verified the gas problem, the department ordered the camp owner to install bigger tanks at the camp. We confirmed with the client that the new tanks were functioning and providing the necessary amount of gas to the camp.
Benefits
  • A migrant farmworker called our office and told us that the Social Security Administration ("SSA") had determined that it had overpaid him by $2,563 based on its inclusion of earnings in 2011 that were not his. We assisted the client in correcting the SSA’s record of his earnings. As a result, SSA reduced his overpayment amount to $61 and the client maintained his SSA benefits. 
  • A Department of Human Services caseworker referred a migrant farmworker's Medicaid case to FLS. The client's children were eligible for Medicaid from 2002 - 2013 but the hospital failed to bill Medicaid for services provided to her children. As a result, the client's account was sent to collections and, to avoid negative treatment on her credit, the client paid $3,600 to settle the collections case in 2010. We assisted the client in negating the debt collector's demands for additional payments and in receiving $3,600 as reimbursement for the payment made to the hospital.
  • A 73-year-old farmworker received an unexpected letter from the Social Security Administration noting an error in his earnings record that resulted in an alleged overpayment of $17,000. FLS appealed the determination resulting in a reduction of the overpayment to just over $3,000 as well as an increase in the client's monthly benefits. FLS then advocated with SSA to obtain a payment plan for monthly reimbursements of less than $100 per month for the former migrant who is still employed annually as a seasonal farmworker. Additionally, FLS represented the elder client's teenage son in seeking a waiver of overpayments to him due to the inaccurate earnings record of his father; the assessed overpayments for the son were waived.
Unemployment
  • We represented the client in an unemployment hearing. The Unemployment Insurance Agency initially found her ineligible for benefits due to quitting a job. We argued that she quit in order to take full-time employment harvesting tomatoes. The judge accepted our argument and found in our client's favor. The restitution order of $3,823 was reversed by the judge's decision. Fraud penalties of $15,292 were reversed after our initial protest.
  • A migrant farmworker received 3 separate notices of determination from the Unemployment Insurance Agency ("UIA") stating he voluntarily quit his agricultural employment for a seasonal employer and, as a result, he was disqualified from receiving benefits and owed a total of $7,550 in restitution. The client, however, had left his seasonal employment to accept a recall from a former employer (who later laid him off), which is not a disqualifying act. FLS filed a timely protest on Client's behalf.  UIA reversed the determination and issued a redetermination finding that the client was not disqualified from receiving benefits and did not owe any restitution.
  • A migrant farmworker’s agricultural employer applied for the agricultural employer seasonal designation in 2010. The Unemployment Insurance Agency (“UIA”) determined that the client was a seasonal worker in 2010. As a result, the UIA determined that Client had been overpaid for all benefits she received based on her earnings from that employer. However, the client had received the majority of her earnings from the employer prior to the employer's designation as a seasonal employer. FLS represented the client in her unemployment case. In September 2013 the UIA issued a Redetermination, finding in favor of the Claimant: "As far as the amount of restitution due, you protested because you state that wages earned in 2009 should not be subject to the denial period, since the employer was not a designated seasonal employer until 2010. You are correct..." As a result of our advocacy, UIA determined that the client is owed an additional $935.76 based on her 2010 benefit year.
  • The Unemployment Insurance Agency (“UIA”) denied a migrant farmworker’s claim for unemployment insurance benefits. We appealed the client’s Monetary Determination, which erroneously listed the client’s earnings during her "Base Period" as $0. As a result of our advocacy, the UIA determined that the client's agricultural employer was a liable employer and that the client was eligible for 18 weeks of benefits under her claim. The UIA then issued the client $761.46 for back benefits and she began receiving a weekly benefit amount of $148. In addition, the UIA's determination that the employer is a liable employer will also permit the employer's other eligible migrant agricultural workers to receive benefits based on their earnings from the employer beginning in 2012.
  • A migrant farmworker was fired from his employment picking peaches because he had left work early one day, even though he had received permission from his supervisor to leave work early to attend to a family matter. The Unemployment Insurance Agency (“UIA”) sent the client an inquiry regarding his eligibility for benefits. We assisted the client in responding to the UIA inquiry, which resulted in the UIA’s Determination that the client was not fired for misconduct or deliberate disregard of his employer and, thus, was eligible for benefits. As a result of our advocacy, the client received $410 in back benefits and began receiving his weekly benefit.
Immigration
  • We assisted two migrant farmworker clients (husband and wife) with immigration applications for U nonimmigrant status.  The clients' minor daughter was sexually assaulted in Florida. We obtained a law enforcement certification from the sheriff department in Florida indicating that the family had been helpful in the criminal investigation. We put together the application packet showing the harm that the crime caused the clients. USCIS approved the case and they both now have U nonimmigrant status and employment authorization for 4 yrs. After 3 years they can apply for Legal Permanent Resident status. 
  • We assisted a client in putting together a packet to apply for a U.S. passport based on her being a Legal Permanent Resident and her father naturalizing a few weeks before she turned 18. This means that she had legally been a U.S. citizen for over 10 years, as she is now 29 years old. She had tried filing for a Certificate of Citizenship on her own but it got returned for an insufficient fee waiver. She had also tried submitting a passport application at her local post office, but the post office wouldn't accept it.  We prepped the passport application and advised her on how to present it to the post office so that they would accept her application and forward it to the US Passport Office. The application was accepted and she was approved for a passport as evidence of her U.S. citizenship.
  • We assisted a 61-year old migrant farmworker client with an application for naturalization. We completed it and submitted it to the USCIS in July 2013. She had her interview at the USCIS office in Florida after she returned there after the season. She passed the exam in Spanish, since she qualified for the English exception based on her age and her over 40 years as a Legal Permanent Resident. She was sworn in as a citizen during an oath ceremony in Florida in December.
 
Document Actions

FLS is funded in part by the Legal Services Corporation.  Please be advised that your contribution may not be used in any manner inconsistent with with the Legal Services Act and Regulations.