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Symone Wango

  • Hosted by Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, Inc.
  • Sponsored by Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, Morgan Stanley
  • Service location Albany, New York
  • Law school Albany Law School
  • Issue area Racial Justice, Workers' Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2021
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Through the Worker Protection Program at the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, Symone (she/her/hers) provides free legal services to low-income workers for employment-related matters including discrimination claims, wage theft claims, and worker safety issues.

The Capital Region of New York, the BIPOC population earns half the median household income of white families and disproportionately works low wage jobs. Many low-income workers cannot afford to lose their earnings, and so they endure workplace abuse, employment discrimination, and unsafe working conditions. The Worker Protection Program is the first legal services program in the area that focuses exclusively on employment-related matters for low-income and low-wage earners.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the first year of the Fellowship, Symone has:

  • Served over 90 low-income workers in the Capital Region, providing full representation to more than 15 clients and legal advice to over 70 individuals
  • Filed nine complaints to state agencies, including employment discrimination complaints with the New York State Division of Human Rights and the Office for Federal Contract Compliance Programs, as well as wage complaints with the New York State Department of Labor
  • Negotiated settlements with employers and secured back wages owed to clients
  • Held “Know Your Rights in the Workplace” presentations for community partner participants
  • Conducted community outreach to increase awareness about the Worker Protection Program and the resources available to community-based organizations

Next Steps

In the next year, Symone plans to:

  • Develop client success stories and compile program data and outcomes to use for promotional purposes, and to apply for funding opportunities to sustain the program
  • Increase community outreach efforts and give more “Know Your Rights in the Workplace” presentations to targeted community groups
  • Develop a strategy to sustain the Worker Protection Program beyond her Fellowship

Growing up in a working-class family taught me that your wages do not determine whether you get to work with a sense of pride and dignity.

Symone Wango /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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