Gina Gemello served as a member of the Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Fellowship class of 2011, and she continues her work at Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center in the San Francisco Bay Area. One of Gina’s main responsibilities is to oversee weekly Workers’ Rights Disability Law Clinics, which provide free legal services to low-income individuals with disabilities who face illegal employment practices that affect their ability to secure or maintain a job. Serving approximately 15-20 people per night, the Clinics have helped hundreds of clients since they began.
Having grown up in the Bay Area and attended law school at nearby UC Hastings School of Law, Gina has been invested in her local community her entire life. The clinic is held in Berkeley, about a 30-minute ride on public transit from Gina’s office in San Francisco. “Our partner organization, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, hosts us in the incredible Ed Roberts Campus, which has been recognized internationally as a model of accessibility and sustainability,” Gina says. “We’re very lucky to have such a welcoming space for our clients.”
Gina says that the people who come into the clinic cover a broad spectrum of legal needs. She has seen “a teacher undergoing cancer treatment, a Laundromat worker with AIDS, a counselor suffering from depression, a millworker who is hard of hearing, a store cashier with diabetes, a custodian with back problems, and a crossing guard with a shoulder injury – all of whom are experiencing some form of disability discrimination, harassment, or a failure to accommodate at work and who come to the clinic for help.”
In addition to her regular duties at the clinic and in the office, Gina has also been working on an exciting new project—writing and producing scripts for six “know your rights” videos in American Sign Language with English captioning. Being able to reach a whole new population is very exciting for both her and the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center. According to their website, “the videos feature deaf interpreters explaining concepts relevant to workers who are deaf or hard of hearing, including: discrimination, reasonable accommodation, unemployment insurance, temporary disability benefits, and leaves of absence.”
“I am very grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to help build a clinic that is specifically designed to respectfully and effectively provide legal services to individuals with disabilities,” Gina says. “A lot of people have worked very hard to make the clinic such a success, and I’m proud to be a part of that community.” By upholding the laws of equal opportunity employment, Gina’s work at Legal Aid and the Tuesday night clinics continues to improve the lives of workers in the Bay Area.