Boxer & Gerson Partner Maria Sager
recently sat on a featured panel at the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Convention held in Rohnert Park. The two-day late August conference, entitled “Building Bridges to a Stronger Tomorrow,” attracted some 300 employers from around the state and beyond, and was held at the DoubleTree Hilton Wine County Hotel.
Sager’s panel discussion, “California Employer’s Guide to Workers’ Compensation,” also featured San Francisco-based workers’ compensation defense attorney Elizabeth Furlow and Judge Sharon Velzey of the State Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board District Office in Van Nuys. The trio covered the basics along with recent developments in California workers’ comp law, then fielded audience questions, many of which centered around the perennial topic of the distinctions between employees and independent contractors. Mis-categorizing those very different worker classes can be quite costly for employers.
In addition, Sager, a certified workers’ compensation specialist, recently accepted the position of vice-chair of the California State Bar Workers’ Compensation Executive Committee,
where she served as treasurer last year. The one-year appointment will see her help guide the committee’s mission to serve the workers’ comp community with public outreach, education and counsel on legislation that affects workers’ compensation law.
Sager’s Boxer & Gerson colleague Justin Litvack also serves on the 14-member committee of attorneys and judges who volunteer their services from around the state.
Bilingual Workers’ Compensation Specialist Maria Sager had a busy week representing Boxer & Gerson, LLP during recent Labor Rights Week festivities sponsored by the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco.
The national observance, coordinated by the United States Department of Labor, included local events mixing education and celebration at the Mexican, Guatemalan and El Salvadoran consulates and other venues in San Francisco, San Jose and Napa.
Sager made six different presentations on workers’ compensation to Spanish-speaking audiences from August 27-30. She also staffed an informational phone bank sponsored by Spanish language television station Univision in San Jose, participated in a radio interview program promoting the week on San Francisco station KIQI, attended inaugural festivities at the Mexican Consulate, and participated in a planning meeting involving some 40 people in the weeks prior to the event.
It was the seventh consecutive year Sager had pitched in during Labor Rights Week to help inform Latin American immigrants of their workers’ compensation and other rights under established labor law. The theme of this year’s event was: “Know Your Rights at Work: The Well Informed Worker.” Those include the rights of workers to:
• A safe and healthy workplace free of obvious hazards
• Fair wages—including overtime pay and the federal minimum wage
• The right to speak to an employer about unsafe conditions or unfair wages
• The right to contact OSHA, the Wage and Hour Division, or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if their rights have been violated.
Sager makes similar presentations on workers’ compensation at the Mexican Consulate on a monthly basis throughout the year. Following up on the Labor Rights Week events, the Consulate invited her and her husband to a Mexican Independence Day fete on September 15, where some 300 guests celebrated the annual holiday, which is September 16. Known as “El Grito,” the holiday notes the 1810 revolt and subsequent independence of Mexico from Spain.
A Labor Rights Week planning meeting in San Francisco, weeks before the event
Boxer & Gerson LLP’s longtime involvement with nonprofit legal aid, support and advocacy organization Centro Legal de la Raza in Oakland has this summer included hosting a student intern for the seventh consecutive year.
David Ruvalcaba is a 2016 Lighthouse Community Charter School graduate who returned home for the prized internship after completing his freshman year at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. He has spent this summer under the wing of Boxer & Gerson Partner Maria Sager, who has included him in a wide range of activities typical of her workers’ compensation practice.
Ruvalcaba’s main academic interests are in physics and law, and he has been considering whether those might be combined in the legal profession. He is currently undecided on his academic major.
The summer internship program is part of Centro Legal’s Youth Law Academy, a multi-year program that supports young people of color in pursuing academic excellence and career opportunities in the legal field. The photo above shows the 2016 Academy members, under the direction of Raymundo Jacquez (back row, right). Sager works closely with Jacquez in planning Boxer & Gerson’s annual participation in the program.
Sager and 2015 summer intern Nori Dubon
In addition to her hosting of a Centro Legal de las Raza intern every summer, Sager also chairs the organization’s Board of Directors. She has been a member of the board for seven years. In that capacity, she has helped deepen ties between Centro Legal and Boxer & Gerson, which next month will include the firm’s sponsorship of Centro Legal’s 48th Anniversary Gala. The event will take place at the Scottish Rite Center in Oakland on September 14. See centrolegal.org/gala for more information.
La Raza Centro Legal is a longtime friend of Boxer & Gerson, LLP. The San Francisco-based nonprofit organization has been dedicated to protecting the rights of Latino, immigrant and low-income individuals in employment, housing, residency status and many other areas since its founding in 1973. Given the commonality of values and concern for oppressed populations, Boxer & Gerson has maintained a longstanding commitment to assisting the organization in any way it can.
On June 6, that commitment manifested in Boxer & Gerson Partner Maria Sager making a presentation to the La Raza Centro Legal staff on workers’ compensation law. The two organizations’ ties will be renewed again on June 16 when Boxer & Gerson sponsors Centro Legal’s 44th Anniversary Gala. The events stand as bookends, in significant ways, to a relationship that has been dedicated to advancing the common good in the Bay Area for many years.
Sager’s June 6 presentation focused on an overview of workers’ compensation law and a review of its benefits, settlements, penalties and civil considerations. The subject is especially relevant to La Raza Centro Legal and its clients, given that immigrant workers can present inviting targets for certain unscrupulous employers who would deny them adequate recourse after they have been injured on the job.
Call 415-575-3500 for more information on the gala celebration or any aspect of La Raza Centro Legal services.
Boxer & Gerson Workers’ Compensation Attorney Jenny Jerez collaborated with the workers’ rights and safety organization WorkSafe on April 11 to present a Day Laborers & Injured Workers Clinic. The event was held at the offices of the Oakland Workers’ Collective in downtown Oakland, which matches day laborers to the needs of those looking for help in a wide variety of projects.
Jerez’s address was in Spanish, in order to better serve the large number of Bay Area workers who have immigrated from Mexico and other Latin American countries. Her presentation covered the rights of workers under workers’ compensation law, regardless of their immigrant or employment status, as well as legal distinctions between employees and day laborers in the process of filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Jenny Jerez (right) with a WorkSafe staffmember
Many day laborers do not know that in the event of their suffering an on-the-job injury, they can file a claim for workers’ compensation, provided they meet specified criteria for length of their employment and income. (Jerez informed her audience of a bill pending in the California Legislature by Assembly Member Gonzalez Fletcher that would eliminate such exemptions.) She also emphasized how important it is for workers to report the injury utilizing the DWC1 form, and to be sure to tell the physician they consult that they were injured while working, no matter what the employer might otherwise suggest.
Jerez joined Boxer & Gerson in 2011 after previously running her own law practice and serving as an associate in another firm with a workers’ compensation emphasis. She is a fluent Spanish speaker who immigrated to the U.S. with her family from her native El Salvador as a young child.
The Mexican Consulate of San Francisco is taking its information-packed seminars for immigrant populations on the road this Saturday with a major assist from Boxer & Gerson and its bilingual Spanish-speaking attorney Maria Sager. The consulate’s presentation at St. Peter Martyr Church in the East Bay town of Pittsburg will feature a number of expert speakers addressing topics that include immigration counseling, passport processing assistance, and information on voting, consular registration, and worker rights. Prominent among the latter will be Sager’s presentation on workers’ compensation law, which will take place from 10 a.m. until noon.
The day will kick off at 9 a.m. and conclude at noon in the church on 740 Black Diamond St. in Pittsburg. All the proceedings will be in Spanish, and there is no cost to attendees.
These “mobile consulates” serve the purpose of outreach to those in distant locales throughout Northern California who would find it difficult to find their way into San Francisco for consular assistance and information. They have proven to be a welcome service in outlying communities, where up to 200 participants have attended in the past. Sager herself crosses the Bay Bridge into San Francisco once a month to make a similar presentation at the consulate, which serves as a nerve center for the many complex issues that are swirling around immigration at this time in the United States.
Boxer & Gerson, LLP is one of multiple financial sponsors of a “Know Your Rights” workshop for immigrants and refugees taking place Saturday, March 11 at the Fruitvale San Antonio Senior Center in Oakland. The two-hour workshops will cover the same material in morning (10 a.m. to noon) and afternoon (1 p.m. to 3 p.m.) sessions, so that attendees can better fit the event into their schedules.
The workshop was conceived as a concrete and supportive response by local human service agencies to the fear and uncertainty engendered by recent crackdowns on undocumented immigrant populations and those whom officials may suspect to be so. It will offer information and instruction, do’s and don’ts, about what to do in the event of a raid or deportation threat by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers on one’s self, family member or friend.
The event reflects longstanding, explicit commitments by Alameda and many other counties in California to do everything possible to ensure the human and legal rights of U.S. residents, regardless of their immigration status. It is being supported by a number of Bay Area city and county governments, politicians, religious organizations, labor groups and others. Boxer & Gerson, the largest workers’ compensation attorney firm representing injured employees in Northern California, was invited to support the event by the Alameda Labor Council, longtime associates in the struggle for workers’ rights.
The plight of immigrant Latino workers will be the focus of a half-day conference sponsored by the California Applicant Attorneys Association (CAAA) on February 8 at the Citizen Hotel in Sacramento. “Death, Denials & Discrimination: A Conversation” will bring together a dozen distinguished figures from the state’s labor, legislative and legal sectors to provide expert overviews on the challenges facing the immigrant Latino labor force.
Among those challenges are the sheer statistical realities that the 2.4 million undocumented Latino workers in California comprise about 10% of the state’s workforce, but in 2014, they accounted for 59.4% of workplace injuries and 37.8% of workplace deaths. These daunting figures suggest a unique set of circumstances not only for workers, but for the employers, legislators, attorneys and judges who must contend with the complex challenges of undocumented workers suffering injuries on the job.
Three panel discussions at the conference will address these and other concerns facing both undocumented and documented Latino workers.
“Latino Workers’ Injuries & Deaths” will feature panelists Arturo S. Rodriguez, president of the United Farmworkers; Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center; Barry Broad, legislative advocate for the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council, and Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights.
The “Rights of the Undocumented” panel that follows will feature Assemblymember Adam Gray (D-Merced), an expert on workplace issues; Doug Bloch, political director of the Teamsters Union Joint Council 7; Joe Capurro, an attorney and advocate whose 35 years of experience in workers’ compensation law have included appearing before the California Supreme Court; and Laura Polstein, the immigration senior staff attorney with the workers’ rights and Latino support organization Centro Legal de la Raza.
The concluding discussion, “Tearing Down Walls,” will include panelists Maria Elena Durazo, the general international vice president of immigration and diversity for the labor union “UNITE HERE”; Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund; and Bill Herreras, an attorney with 40 years of experience in workers’ compensation law who has also argued cases before the California Supreme Court.
Boxer & Gerson Partner Maria Sager, chair of the conference’s organizing committee and long active in legal issues affecting Latino immigrants, will offer opening remarks to kick off the day. Sager also chairs the Board of Directors of the Latino legal services and support group Centro Legal de la Raza, conducts a monthly radio interview show on workers’ rights on Spanish radio station KIQI in San Francisco, and visits the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco monthly to give pro bono presentations on workers’ compensation law to immigrants.
As a Spanish speaker herself, Sager has represented thousands of Spanish-speaking clients over her nearly 18-year legal career, and is thus in a unique position to understand the fears and concerns of immigrants during this turbulent political time. She will be joined briefly on the podium during opening remarks by Rodrigo Baez, Consul of Protection & Legal Affairs for the Sacramento Mexican Consulate. She will also play a 2-minute video produced in both English and Spanish that discusses the benefits even undocumented workers are entitled to when injured on the job. The video can be downloaded anytime at vimeo.com/caaaworkcomp.
The idea for this conference was hatched in discussions last year between Boxer & Gerson Partner Bert Arnold, who recently ended his year-long term as president of CAAA, and his colleague Sager, whose experience on the State Bar Workers’ Compensation Executive Committee and other activities regarding immigrant rights has seen her heavily involved in workplace issues involving Latinos. When Arnold and the CAAA decided that one critical goal would be to heighten the activity and profile of the organization’s Latino Caucus, he turned to Sager for assistance. She then parlayed much of her experience with the State Bar and her many contacts in the field of immigration and workers’ rights to join forces with the Latino Caucus in the creation of the upcoming conference.
Initial funding for the conference was provided personally by the CAAA Board of Directors last year when the idea was first discussed in earnest at a July board meeting. A subsequent and separate collection among the CAAA’s Latino Caucus was to be donated to the California Legislature’s Latino Caucus in furtherance of that group’s goals.
For more information and registration, go to latinoworkcomp.eventbrite.com
Boxer & Gerson Partner Maria Sager’s visit to Meadow Homes Elementary School in Concord on October 7 carried a special resonance as she addressed a group of parents from Spanish-speaking countries who were recently arrived in the United States. Sager is herself a graduate of Meadow Homes, where she began school as a 6-year-old who did not speak English. Her presentation came about after a chance meeting during Labor Rights Week at the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco, where she happened to strike up a conversation with a member of the Concord Police Department who does community outreach for Meadow Homes. When Sager delightedly told the woman about her own roots at the school, the conversation took a turn toward what she could do to help.
Said Sager: “I presented in Spanish to around 30 moms whose children attend Meadow Homes. We discussed many topics, including the challenges one faces as an immigrant, bullying, deportation fears in light of the current political climate, discrimination, my being a partner at a wonderful law firm, my parents, my husband, and of course workers’ compensation law. The two hours flew by. Wonderful experience. I emphasized to them that they can make it in this country. I too, came from humble beginnings. ”
A week later, Sager addressed another of her alma maters: the Golden Gate School of Law, where she discussed workers’ compensation law with a defense lawyer from another firm in front of law students during a noon-hour seminar.
Sager is a certified workers’ compensation specialist who joined Boxer & Gerson in 2003 and was named a partner in 2011. She is among the bilingual attorneys and other staff members who serve Spanish-speaking clientele.
Boxer & Gerson LLP’s stately headquarters office in the Rotunda Building at Frank G Ogawa Plaza in downtown Oakland will play host to Centro Legal de La Raza’s “Mentorship Kick-Off” event for its Youth Law Academy (YLA) on October 12. The reception will take place from 5-7 p.m. and feature guest comments by Wilma Gandoy, consul at the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco..
Centro Legal de la Raza is a nonprofit legal aid, support and advocacy organization offering bilingual services to low-income, underserved Bay Area residents. Boxer & Gerson Partner Maria Sager serves as chair of its board of directors. Complementing its emphasis on workers’ rights, immigration issues, homelessness prevention, and education is a robust Youth Law Academy program that supports young people of color in pursuing academic excellence and career opportunities in the legal field.
The program pairs experienced legal mentors with young members of the YLA. Boxer & Gerson attorneys Warren Pulley, Jenny Jerez and Dikla Dolev will be among the mentors assisting the program this year.
In addition to the mentorship program, YLA members can also pursue summer internships at participating law firms. Boxer & Gerson began offering such internships at its offices in 2011, and takes every opportunity to support the organization’s many other goals of service to the community.