Real Cases. Real Experience.
Members of the Transnational Worker Rights Clinic meet with clients to discuss the terms of the settlement. Left to right, Clinic director Bill Beardall, clients Hugo Roque and Abel Aguilar-Ramos, Kevin Vela, ’08, and Helena Coronado-Salazar, ’07.
Students in the Transnational Worker Rights Clinic have secured a favorable settlement for their clients in an employment case filed against Veggie Heaven, an Austin restaurant. The students represented Hugo Roque and Abel Aguilar-Ramos, two former employees, in a wage dispute with the restaurant.
The Clinic began work on the case in the fall of 2006, and students worked on it over four semesters. Clinic students on the case included Edmundo De La Fuente, Sonia Johnston, Rebecca Kalmus, Helena Coronado-Salazar, Roxanne Tizravesh, Christie Turner, and Kevin Vela. They were supervised by Professor Bill Beardall, Director of the Clinic and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Center.
The students met with their clients, investigated the facts, attempted to negotiate a resolution with the employer, and eventually filed a lawsuit in Travis County Court against Veggie Heaven alleging violations of the workers’ minimum wage and overtime rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Texas Minimum Wage Act. After several months of formal discovery and further negotiations, the parties reached a settlement. The terms of the settlement are confidential, but the workers are pleased with the outcome.
“This case was a great example of why I love this Clinic,” said Kevin Vela, ’08. “On our end, we were able to employ what we’ve learned about labor law, interact with Spanish-speaking clients, and negotiate directly with opposing counsel. On the other end, we were able to empower a couple of hard-working laborers who otherwise would never have received their just wages. It was an incredibly rewarding experience.”
Students in the Clinic represent low-income transnational migrant workers (regardless of their national origin and immigration status) in employment-related cases, and also engage in advocacy projects asserting the rights of workers here and abroad. The Law School established the Clinic in the fall of 2004 and it gives students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with civil litigation and employment law.
“This case was of course a valuable learning experience for both the students and the workers,” said Professor Beardall. “But by far its greatest value is that it takes us all a few steps further down the road to having a community where all working people can count on being properly compensated for their honest labor and have the ability to use the legal system effectively to secure their rights.”
The Transnational Worker Rights Clinic is based at the Central Texas Immigrant Worker Rights Center, a project of the Equal Justice Center. The Clinic is supported by a generous grant from the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation, and is part of the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice at the Law School.
Contact: Bill Beardall, Director of the Transnational Worker Rights Clinic, UT Law, at (512) 474-0007, x101