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Helping Clients Assert their Legal Rights in the Workplace

/ Blog Post

Headshot of Samantha Beauchamp
Photo of Samantha Beauchamp, 2022 RSLC Student Fellow

Samantha Beauchamp, a 2L at Suffolk University Law School and 2022 Student Fellow in our Rural Summer Legal Corps, shares her summer of service experience, and discusses how an Equal Justice Works Student Fellowship helped her to build legal skills outside the classroom.

My 300 hours of service reaffirmed my belief that our country’s education platform is lacking topics that may protect young adults once they begin working. In some states, young adults begin working as young as 14 years old. I began working at 16 years old, and like many others, I did not have a clue about my rights or the rights of my employers. I was discriminatorily mistreated by employers and even ruined my own chances of obtaining assistance by not having practical knowledge about how to protect myself in the workplace. Seeing this injustice firsthand, I was determined to help people understand their rights and protections in the workplace.

As a Rural Summer Legal Corp Fellow with Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc. (LawNY), I had the privilege of conducting research, hearing preparation, and counseling low-income clients at unemployment insurance benefits administrative hearings. By the end of my Student Fellowship, I represented a client against a government agency, and won the case for the client who received unemployment benefits.

The claimant had worked with the government agency for 10 years and quit in lieu of termination with good cause under non-disqualifying conditions. They were going to be discharged from service and lose their grade for poor work performance due to medical conditions. Despite doing everything in their power to keep their job, transfer, or find a job that is close in grade to their position, my client (like so many others) almost lost benefits they were entitled to because they didn’t fully understand their legal rights.

I believe if people understood the law before taking action, they would be better able to advocate for themselves, and would avoid being taken advantage of by employers. People need to know that voluntary quitting for personal reasons or without first taking steps to try to resolve the issue with the employer is usually not considered good cause under New York State Department of Labor regulations, and that such actions may become a barrier to their receipt of unemployment benefits. What you don’t know can hurt you.

My Student Fellowship at LawNY challenged my ability to think on my feet, develop legal arguments, and directly engage with clients.

Samantha Beauchamp /
2022 RSLC Student Fellow

My Student Fellowship at LawNY challenged my ability to think on my feet, develop legal arguments, and directly engage with clients. Law school can teach you how to research and write, but the Rural Summer Legal Corps provided invaluable practical experience with the training wheels off.

If you are interested in embarking on a summer of service like Samantha, apply to the Rural Summer Legal Corps by 11:59 p.m. ET on February 14, 2023. For more information about program eligibility and requirements, please visit here.

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow