Migrant Farmworker Program
Maryland Legal Aid’s Migrant Farmwork Program assisted a farmworker from the Mexican province of Chiapas who was in the United States under an H-2A visa. This visa is granted to foreign agricultural workers for agricultural work performed in the United States on a temporary basis. It also provides legal protections for workers such as setting minimum wage standards, regulating overtime work, and ensuring adequate housing and transportation.
The client contracted to work in Florida from May until June of 2017. However, the farm labor contractor unlawfully transported him and the rest of his crew from Florida to Maryland, and ordered them to perform unsanctioned work in watermelon fields in Delaware. Maryland Legal Aid received a phone call from attorneys in Florida regarding the movement of the farmworker crew.
Staff Attorney Ernie Dominguez and Law Graduate Nohora Rivero from Maryland Legal Aid’s Migrant Farmworker Program interviewed the client. It was determined that the client was likely the victim of labor trafficking and wage theft, and that he and other farmworkers in his crew were working extreme hours and were not being paid for overtime wages.
Ernie contacted the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and persuaded the agency to investigate. The DOL compelled the employer to provide the client passage home to Chiapas, Mexico and a small payment of $528 in unpaid wages, while the investigation continued. The client was happy to return home and receive the wages he earned.
Foreclosure Legal Assistance Project
In late August, Staff Attorney Bill Steinwedel from Maryland Legal Aid’s Foreclosure Legal Assistance Project (FLAP) filed an emergency motion in bankruptcy court within an hour to stop a foreclosure sale. The client is currently in an active Chapter 13 case. After the client’s Motion to Extend the Stay Hearing and the Meeting of Creditors, the client will likely be able to stay in her home permanently as long as she continues to make her mortgage and trustee payments.
Anne Arundel County Office
Staff Attorney Margaret Holmes from Maryland Legal Aid’s Anne Arundel County office won an appeal on behalf of a Child in Need of Assistance (CINA) client. Margaret defended the Juvenile Court’s judgment that the client was a CINA when the child’s natural mother appealed. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision. Katie Flowers, a former summer law clerk for the Anne Arundel County office, made significant contributions to the writing of the brief for this case.
Upper Eastern Shore Office
On October 5, Greg Countess, Director of Advocacy for Housing and Community Development, and Chief Attorney Bill Leahy and Staff Attorney Rachel Wolpert from Maryland Legal Aid’s Upper Eastern Shore office, won a hearing upholding a client’s right to a full appeal period in a case against Talbot Trailer Park.