Brittany Berzin has a long history of volunteering with the Sacramento-based Center for Workers’ Rights
While at the McGeorge School of Law, aspiring lawyer Brittany Berzin was introduced to the Center for Workers’ Rights (CWR) employment law clinic, and its mission resonated with her.
The Center for Workers’ Rights is a Sacramento-based nonprofit organization committed to improving the working conditions of low-wage workers and their families. Founded in 2014, the Center focuses on offering its free-of-cost services to low-wage workers regardless of citizenship status.
Brittany said she began volunteering with the clinic around 2015 and has volunteered at nearly every available level, from law student to employment law attorney and board member to board chair.
“That’s what made me interested in employment law in the first place is helping people who don’t know all of their rights or don’t have a way to speak up for themselves,” Brittany said. “I feel like the Center is helping people in the community who might otherwise not get legal representation, and I think that’s really important.”
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From Law School Student Volunteer To Board Chair
She said the values of Shimoda & Rodriguez Law, PC encourage her participation in volunteer activities, which has allowed her to devote her time outside of the firm to working with the Center.
“One of the things that I like most is the law school clinic,” Brittany said. “I think that was one thing that helped me learn a lot about employment law when I was first starting out.”
The CWR board and executive director select potential board members based on a variety of factors including but not limited to their background and expertise, volunteer history with the organization, and the potential candidate’s availability. Brittany said she was asked to become a member of the board at the end of 2021 and then became chair in mid-2022.
“In my work, I see instances where a case is relatively small or lower value, and it may not be something an attorney making a business decision is going to be able to help with,” she said. “The Center is a nonprofit. It’s all about what’s best for the worker and how we can help them. It’s not a business decision. I like that aspect of it.”
Protecting Employee Rights Statewide
The Center’s Executive Director and staff go above and beyond to fight for and protect employee rights, like picketing businesses that don’t fulfill their legal obligation to pay employees following a ruling from the Labor Commissioner.
Additionally, the Center conducts Know Your Rights training for employees and employers to preempt common issues like wage and hour claims and employee misclassification. But a significant and crucial part of the Center’s work is advocating for employee rights and coordinating with state agencies, such as the California Labor Commissioner’s Office and the California Employment Development Department (EDD).
“The Center is trying to make system-wide changes with state agencies that help employees that isn’t something that attorneys typically will be doing,” Brittany said. “I think that work is important.”
The Center is coordinating new training programs through the Labor Commissioner’s Office to help workers navigate settlement agreements from employers. She said the prevalence of telephone and video conferences during and following the COVID-19 pandemic has helped expand the reach of legal professionals and organizations like the Center.
“Even though they have their office in Sacramento, they help employees throughout California,” she said.