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    03.05.18 Marvin Espana ’18 Helps Achieve Major Victory for Immigrant Worker
    Marvin Espana '18

    Thanks to the efforts of Marvin Espana ’18, a building porter who often worked seven days a week in exchange for a free room in the basement of a building but was never paid a salary was awarded more than $43,000 in unpaid wages after he filed a claim with the New York Department of Labor (DOL).

    As part of Espana’s internship at LatinoJustice PRLDEF (Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund), a nonprofit providing Latinos with legal resources and support. he worked closely with Senior Counsel Jackson Chin on the successful back-wages claim for their client, Jose Rodriquez’s. Recently, Rodriguez received a total of $43,300 in compensation that the employer agreed to pay during a DOL conciliation process.

    “The building employer could not claim “credit” for providing rent-free room to Rodriguez from any owed back wages, since such a defense is not applicable here given the basement apartment was not a legal unit,” said Espana.

    Chin called the case “a particularly egregious example of workplace exploitation in an invisible part of our metropolitan low-wage economy,” pointing out that many immigrant workers don’t know that employers who give free or discounted living accommodations are not exempt from labor law obligations to pay minimum wage and overtime payments.

    It is not the first time Espana has worked to help immigrants. Last year, he was one of six students from the Law School, sponsored by the Public Service Law Center, who spent part of winter break in Texas working with asylum-seeking refugees under the supervision of attorneys from the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). Espana had reached out to the San Antonio-based nonprofit to revive the Law School’s Immigration Court Observation Project.

    Read more about the case here