This first issue in Clearinghouse Review's new all-digital-only platform discusses the legal nuances of services for workers who want to take sick leave and keep their jobs; for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender clients; by organizations trying to influence federal policy through the rulemaking process; for tenants against crime-free rental housing and nuisance-property ordinances; for prisoners' ongoing contact by phone with relatives; and by advocates who represent a client against another who is unrepresented.
This inaugural issue of Clearinghouse Review's now all-digital-only edition features an article each on federal and state laws for helping workers keep their jobs when they need sick leave; considerate services for lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgender clients; how to influence federal policy through the rulemaking process; how to push back crime-free rental housing and nuisance-property ordinances; prison phone justice reform; and ethical quandaries when representing one against another who is unrepresented.
When workers take sick leave to tend to illness or injury or to care for a sick family member, their employment rights are often protected by a panoply of federal and state laws. Advocates should familiarize themselves with the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and relevant state leave laws so that they can help their clients take leave when they need it and return to their jobs when the leave is over.
Beyond the structural injustices leading to poverty, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people’s hurdles contribute to their overrepresentation in low-income communities. To meet our professional responsibility and institutional mission of helping the marginalized, fighting for justice, and preserving our clients’ dignity, we must develop cultural competence when interacting with LGBT clients. Reaching out to them and improving case handling and intake systems are key strategies.
Much federal policy is made through the promulgation and implementation of regulations and subregulatory guidance from federal agencies. Advocates can represent their clients by getting involved in the regulatory process. Organizations that receive funds from the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) may not use those funds to participate in or influence rulemaking, but they may use non-LSC funds for this purpose. Strong working relationships with agency employees are key to effective regulatory advocacy. Comments on proposed regulations work best when they discuss the regulations’ pros and cons and are supported by evidence and several partners.
Crime-free rental housing and nuisance-property ordinances penalize landlords for criminal activity or police calls associated with their rental properties and push out the tenants who live there. The ordinances can displace crime victims, increase homelessness, and disproportionately affect women, people of color, and people with disabilities. The proliferation of such ordinances can be beaten back by collaboration, intentional-discrimination claims, and threats to a municipality’s federal funds for not affirmatively furthering fair housing.
When family members must pay for collect calls from incarcerated relatives, ongoing contact essential to prisoners’ successful reentry is impeded. In many states, prison phone service providers paid commissions to state correctional agencies or private corporations that operate prisons and passed on the cost to prisoners’ families. A recent Federal Communications Commission ruling caps the costs of interstate prison phone calls; advocates continue to seek a cap on intrastate calls.
Poverty lawyers often interact with unrepresented, adverse parties. These communications can give rise to a wide range of ethical concerns. Examining how and when to communicate with unrepresented, adverse parties against the backdrop of real estate contract disputes in New Mexico reveals that all advocates for low-income people should stop and think about the moral quandaries that arise when they represent one low-income person against another.