Photo of Melissa S. Ader

Melissa S. Ader

  • Hosted by The Legal Aid Society
  • Sponsored by AIG, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP
  • Service location New York, New York
  • Law school Yale Law School
  • Issue area Workers' Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2015
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Melissa provided direct representation and community education to low-income New Yorkers with arrest and conviction records to reduce barriers to employment and facilitate successful reentry.

Almost one-third of U.S. adults — approximately 70 million people — have arrest or conviction records.  These individuals confront enormous barriers to obtaining employment, especially if they are poor.  In New York City, a criminal record reduces the likelihood of getting a callback or job offer for low-wage work by nearly 50 percent.  New York provides strong anti-discrimination protections to people with criminal records; however, there has been only limited enforcement of these protections to date.  This project will break down barriers to employment by enforcing New York’s strong anti-discrimination laws and empowering New Yorkers with criminal records to defend their rights and obtain stable employment.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Melissa has:

  • Recovered $117,500 for clients who suffered wage loss and emotional distress when they were unlawfully denied employment because of their criminal record
  • Provided legal services on 765 criminal records discrimination matters, thereby reducing hundreds of barriers to employment
  • Obtained or retained 26 occupational licenses, work clearances, or jobs through full representation of clients
  • Helped 61 people prepare personal statements and rehabilitation evidence to present to employers and agencies considering denying them employment or licenses on the basis of their criminal record
  • Persuaded 3 government agencies to change policies that adversely affected low-income New Yorkers with arrest and conviction records
  •  Provided 21 trainings to low-income New Yorkers with criminal records or their advocates

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Melissa plans to:

  • Continue empowering clients to enforce New York’s criminal records discrimination laws
  • Continue providing legal services to individuals confronting barriers to employment because of their arrest and conviction records
  • Continue helping clients with criminal records obtain or retain occupational licenses and jobs
  •  Continue working with government agencies to change policies that negatively impact New Yorkers with arrest and conviction records
  • Continue providing trainings to low-income New Yorkers with criminal records and their advocates

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Host: Women Empowered Against Violence

Sponsor: Arnold & Porter Foundation

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Sponsor: Deere & Co., Lane & Waterman LLP, Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila LLP

Current Fellow

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Fernanda Herrera Spieler

Host: Resilience Force

Sponsor: Equal Justice Works Text-to-Give

Current Fellow

Jennifer Bowles

Host: D.C. Employment Justice Center

Sponsor: Feder, Semo, Clark & Bard, P.C., Mehri & Skalet, PLLC, Stephen Murdoch, The Union Community Fund, AFL-CIO, UFCW International Union