Restoring a Client’s Faith in Justice
CVLS and the Chinese American Service League (CASL) partner to provide pro bono legal assistance to clients on a wide range of legal issues. CASL Legal Services provides equal access to justice to Asian Americans who meet income and residency requirements. CASL’s work during the pandemic has been essential helping low-income clients facing unique legal and financial challenges.
In February 2021, Crystal came to CASL Legal Services after receiving a letter from the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). The letter claimed that she had been overpaid unemployment benefits. Crystal was being asked to pay back over $11,000.
Crystal was just one of many workers whose job security was affected by the pandemic. After working for her employer for more than a decade, she found herself out of a job when her office shut down due to the Illinois Stay-At-Home Order. When she finally returned to work, Crystal’s hours were gradually reduced and eventually eliminated.
Although Crystal had a legitimate claim for unemployment, her former employer disagreed. CASL Managing Attorney, Kim Leung, and volunteers Yunge Li (Corporate Counsel at LabCorp) and Valerie Chu (JD Candidate at UIC Chicago College of Law), represented Crystal at her “referee” hearing. The referee judge’s job is to re-examine an applicant’s claim and look at the evidence supporting unemployment.
The referee judge issued a decision partially Crystal’s favor, finding that she was entitled to receive benefits only while her employer had closed the workplace but not after it reopened. Kim helped Crystal appeal the unfavorable part of the decision, and they won. The IDES Board of Review found that the employer had reduced Crystal’s hours to the point of layoff, meaning she was entitled to full benefits!
Crystal originally came to CASL feeling panicked at the prospect of paying back $11,000, money which she had already spent on her and her family's basic needs. When Crystal finally received the Board of Review's decision and saw that she did not owe anything, she told us that she felt great joy and relief and that her experience with CASL and CVLS restored her faith in justice.