Pro Bono Net is proud to announce the launch of ¡Reclamo!, the most comprehensive platform to date to help immigrant workers fight back against wage theft. The launch is the result of more than three years of dedicated work between Justicia Lab, Pro Bono Net’s incubator for immigrant justice, and community partners including Make the Road New York’s team of attorneys, paralegals, workers, and organizers.
¡Reclamo! marks a number of milestones for Pro Bono Net. It’s our most ambitious effort to date to directly address labor and workplace access to justice. For Justicia Lab, it marks the first effort in the program’s expanded mission to address legal issues disproportionately affecting immigrants in America beyond our longstanding innovation work directly related to immigration policy and the immigration system. And ¡Reclamo! is a direct extension of Pro Bono Net’s work focused on legal empowerment: helping all Americans to better understand, claim and fulfill their rights under the law, developing digital strategies that seek to shift power and agency to those most impacted by injustices, and scaling legal support through community justice partners.
Learn more in our launch announcement below. Make the Road and other worker center and employment justice partners have already filed over 1 million dollars in wage theft claims on behalf of workers since ¡Reclamo! was launched in beta in October 2022. Amid necessary and overdue conversations around a changing workforce and labor equity, we need to make sure the most invisible in our society and most vulnerable to exploitation – and those who take on many of the most challenging and integral roles in our economy – have the same access to our justice system and have tools that are specifically designed with them and for their needs.
Immigrant justice nonprofits launch ¡Reclamo!, most comprehensive platform to date to help immigrant workers fight back against wage theft
First generation of the tool to empower workers and their advocates to combat labor exploitation in New York State’s construction and building sector
Today Justicia Lab, Pro Bono Net’s nonprofit innovation incubator for technology solutions supporting the immigrant rights movement, announces the official launch of ¡Reclamo!, the most comprehensive tool developed to date to help address wage theft of immigrant workers in the United States.
¡Reclamo! (or “Reclaim” in Spanish) is the first independent and not for profit worker advocacy digital legal tool to screen and file wage theft complaints. The web and mobile platform creates a flexible and scalable way for workers and advocates to know, use, and shape employment laws. ¡Reclamo! helps low-wage, immigrant workers seek economic justice, prevent impoverishment, and provide worker advocates with the tools to not only accelerate the production of wage theft claims but to also safely gather data to inform organizing, litigation, and policy change.
The initial iteration of the tool focuses on wage theft violations in the construction and building sector in New York State. ¡Reclamo! was developed in close collaboration with lead partner Make the Road New York and is currently being piloted with other worker centers and employment justice partners across New York City and Westchester including New Immigrant Community Empowerment, TakeRoot Justice, El Centro del Inmigrante, and Community Resource Center. Together these partners have already filed over 1 million dollars in wage theft claims on behalf of workers since the tool was launched in beta in October 2022.
Wage theft is a national epidemic with losses to workers estimated at $50 billion annually nationwide. An estimated 2.1 million New Yorkers are victims of wage theft each year, placing New York 4th in the nation when it comes to the highest prevalence of wage theft amongst low-wage workers. And immigrants are especially vulnerable to labor exploitation – employment studies show that foreign-born workers in New York City are more than twice as likely as their U.S.-born counterparts to experience wage theft.
Wage theft is enabled by a host of factors including: a lack of knowledge by workers around state wage and hour rules, poorly designed and enforced bureaucratic complaint processes, and lack of free or low bono legal assistance. Many immigrant workers who want to pursue wage and hour claims must overcome language barriers, fear of retaliation, and complicated paperwork.
¡Reclamo! is designed to address each of these challenges, significantly scaling the number of wage theft cases that can be addressed by allowing non-lawyer advocates to process claims including worker organizers, paralegals, social workers, librarians, and staff from worker and employment centers.
“Low-wage, immigrant workers are doing some of the most difficult jobs in our society while systematically being robbed of the wages that they are lawfully owed. With ¡Reclamo! we are equipping worker advocates with a new tool to reclaim stolen wages and better understand the impact of wage theft in our communities.”Rodrigo Camarena, Director of Justicia Lab.
¡Reclamo! combines the following features into one integrated platform:
- Wage Theft Calculator: Feature that allows workers to figure out how much money they’re owed by answering a simple set of plain language questions. This feature captures information on unpaid wages, minimum wage violations, overtime, illegal deductions, liquidated damages, fines and benefits including sick leave
- Direct Action and Legal Recourse Center: Using the information calculated by the tool, ¡Reclamo! populates a Department of Labor complaint form, a demand letter referencing New York State labor laws, and a calling script to help non-lawyer advocates put pressure on employers to fulfill their labor obligations
- Worker and Advocate Education: Many immigrant workers are unaware of their rights as both immigrants and workers. ¡Reclamo! embeds knowledge about local, state and national labor laws within the platform, including information about what constitutes wage theft, to empower the immigrant community and their non-lawyer advocates
- Data for Advocacy and Enforcement: In order to address wage theft at scale, ¡Reclamo! uses data to identify larger claims and/or patterns among employers to identify opportunities for worker organizing and systemic reform.
The public launch of ¡Reclamo! follows three years of co-design and development with Justicia Lab alongside Make the Road’s team of attorneys, paralegals, workers, and organizers. The collaborative design process included extensive user and expert interviews, design research and observation, and prototyping and testing with ongoing worker and advocate feedback. The tool brings in best practices in equitable technology development, addressing longstanding trust issues that many immigrants experience with technology by prioritizing data and privacy security and language access.
“I am thrilled to have ¡Reclamo! ready for every worker advocate to use to tackle the scourge of wage theft across our communities. We have worked for years with Justicia Lab to implement this effective organizing, education, and legal tool for all workers, and their advocates, in New York State. All too often, workers whose wages are stolen by employers are not able to access a lawyer, and ¡Reclamo! is designed particularly for those advocates who do not work with an attorney to help workers in their cases.”Elizabeth Joynes Jordan, Make The Road New York’s Legal Director and co-creator of the tool.
Justicia Lab plans to adapt ¡Reclamo! for use in other industries (hospitality, restaurants, retail) and other states (California, Texas, Illinois) where wage theft is rampant. ¡Reclamo! was the winner of the Worker’s Lab Innovation Fund competition and a finalist of the Civic I/O Civic Tech Pitch at SXSW.
About Justicia Lab
Justicia Lab is Pro Bono Net’s immigrant justice technology lab, and a nonprofit legal tech initiative whose mission is to transform immigrant justice through collaboration, creativity, and technology. We work hand in hand with immigrants and their advocates to identify common challenges and incubate scalable digital tools to advance help immigrants navigate our immigration system, find workplace justice, and more. Justicia Lab has developed over a dozen immigrant justice legal tools to scale and support the work of advocates and bridge the justice gap, helping over 500,000 people find critical immigration information and relief.
About Pro Bono Net
Pro Bono Net is a national nonprofit leader in building technology and collaborations that increase access to justice. From connecting attorneys to those most in need to creating legal tools to help individuals advocate for themselves, Pro Bono Net makes the law work for the many and not the few.