Case Challenging Discrimination Based on Unrelated Criminal History Moves Forward

Criminal Background Check
Taheera Heard is an African-American woman with a strong employment history as a financial auditor. In 2015, she was recruited for a Senior IT Auditor position at Genesis Health Care. After Genesis made her an offer and set a conditional start date, Ms. Heard resigned her previous position. Genesis then stopped communicating with her, and months later she finally received notice that she would not be hired because a background check showed an unrelated criminal history, which Ms. Heard had previously disclosed. Along with Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity and Willig, Williams & Davidson, we filed suit based on a Pennsylvania law which prohibits employers from discriminating against job candidates with criminal histories if the charge is unrelated to the job at hand. Genesis filed preliminary objections, seeking to have the case dismissed. We are pleased that President Judge Cody of the Chester County Court of Common Pleas has largely overruled these preliminary objections. We are moving forward with discovery in this case. The case is part of our Fair Employment Opportunities Project, which seeks to educate employers and stop employment discrimination based on criminal histories.

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Community Farm Heads to Court to Keep Land
Photo credit: La Finquita

On March 18, we helped Philadelphia Catholic Worker, a community-based organization in South Kensington, file a quiet title action to gain permanent control of the land they have continuously cultivated since 1988. This adverse possession suit comes after the gardeners found a lock and "No Trespassing" signs on the entrance to the garden fence earlier this year. We are grateful to partner Ned Rahn and Saul Ewing LLP for co-counseling with us on this case. 

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Disability Rights Clinic
Do you have a disability or health condition? Think you've faced discrimination? Need an accommodation at work, school, or from your doctor or landlord? Attend a free clinic and learn about work incentives and your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Volunteer Spotlight: Alan Kolc

Alan Kolc
We are grateful for the support we receive from volunteers. Over the last few months, photographer Alan Kolc has been volunteering to help us improve our digital and visual communications. He took new head shots of our staff and has helped us share our client's stories through photographs. 

Alan had this to say about his work with us: "I just want to pitch in a little bit. You guys do the heavy lifting and fight the good fight." 

Thank you, Alan, for all of your help! You have pitched in a lot! Help us thank Alan by liking our post to him on Facebook.
Board Member of the Month

Rachel Gallegos
Congratulations to our March board member of the month, Rachel Gallegos of Steve Harvey Law LLC! Rachel has served on our board since 2011, including two years as board secretary. 

"It is a tremendous honor to be associated with the Law Center. It is at the forefront of many major legal issues facing our City and Commonwealth, and I watch in amazement every day as the staff works tirelessly to advocate for what is right and for those who would otherwise not be heard. The Law Center employs some of the best legal minds in our profession and they have changed countless lives for the better as a result of their efforts." - Rachel Gallegos

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School Funding Lawsuit Conference Call
Attorneys from the Education Law Center and the Public Interest Law Center will provide an update on the status of the School Funding Lawsuit, Education Voters will share resources that can be used to increase awareness of the lawsuit, and callers will have time for Q & A with the attorneys.

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Law Center Receives two Significant Foundation Grants 

Barra Foundation
The Barra Foundation has awarded us a Catalyst Fund grant to conduct an 18-month study to determine the feasibility of creating a sustainable social enterprise that delivers legal training and advances the mission of the Law Center. Through the Catalyst Fund, The Barra Foundation invests in ideas that tackle problems or seize opportunities in new, different, better and significant ways. These timely and novel approaches push boundaries and have the potential to inspire change. Thank you to The Barra Foundation for this exciting opportunity!

Sam Fels Fund
The Samuel S. Fels Fund has renewed its support of our public education advocacy work. Thank you to the Fels board and staff for your continued support!
Employment First Executive Order

Photo: Arc of Mass.
Earlier this month, Governor Wolf issued an executive order establishing an "employment first" policy designed to increase integrated employment opportunities for people with disabilities. We applaud Governor Wolf for signing this order. Employment First means work is the first and preferred option for people with disabilities. This order articulates an important culture shift for Pennsylvania to recognize the talents and capacity of adults with disabilities to work for minimum wage or better in the community. Currently, thousands of Pennsylvanians with disabilities are shuttled into segregated adult day programs and sheltered workshops where they earn far below minimum wage. We advocate for all adults with disabilities to access supports that enable them to live and work independently in the community.

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Briefing: Public Education Funding in Pennsylvania
Join attorneys Michael Churchill, Jennifer Clarke and Daniel Urevick-Ackelsberg for a briefing on the current budget impasse, the basics of education funding, the school funding lawsuit, and the 2016-2017 proposed budget. This is a FREE event. Breakfast will be provided and 1.5 CLE credits are available for Pennsylvania attorneys.

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Seed Libraries in PA Allowed to Engage in Free Seed Exchange 

urbanfoodwarrior via flickr
We joined a statewide coalition, including Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Grow Pittsburgh and members of the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council, as well as individual growers and organizations, that worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to clarify protocol about the Seed Act of 2004. It is now clear that seed libraries and other non-commercial seed exchanges are not subject to the cost-prohibitive licensing, labeling and testing requirements required of commercial seed distributors.
In providing this clarification, Pennsylvania sets a precedent to protect and encourage seed libraries throughout the commonwealth.  

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Join us in Harrisburg on May 2 to Rally for Public Education

Save the Date! Together with our partners in The Campaign for Fair Education Funding, we will gather in Harrisburg on Monday, May 2 to rally for public education funding. The press conference will begin at 12:30 p.m. in the Main Rotunda. 

Rally poster


The Public Interest Law Center | United Way Building | 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway | Second Floor | Philadelphia | PA | 19103