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Reclamo, a new web app created by Justicia Lab, helps immigrant workers who have experienced wage theft. By answering questions in English or Spanish with the help of an advocate in the app, users can build case details, learn their rights, and finish legal claims that can be filed within an hour instead of months.
Recovering a million dollars in stolen wages
Reclamo launched last October in New York and focused on the construction industry, because it's rife with abuse, and helped recover $1 million in lost wages. In mid-May, it was expanded to give workers more leverage with their employers.
What is wage theft?
Wage theft is when employers “forget” to pay overtime or regular pay that was legally earned, costing U.S. workers roughly $50 billion per year, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
Government attorneys rarely prosecute it because of workload. But the interesting part is, the people who are usually affected by this are immigrants, both legal and undocumented. This is because of communication issues and new immigrants not knowing their rights or legal remedies.
Why was this app created?
Reclamo was born out of injustices that immigrants were subject to during the Trump administration.
Justicia (Reclamo’s developers) staff couldn’t magically change federal laws, but after learning details about wage theft a few years ago, they decided to help in other ways. After user testing, interviewing community justice workers, and additional research, the app’s function took shape.
Workers use this app with a community organizer and get help with legal guidance. Then, the final results including a legal claim and a letter are sent to defaulting employers, which is the fastest way to recover money based on results.
How will this help workers?
By helping workers file complaints and seek legal aid without a lawyer, Reclamo addresses a huge societal gap: 92% of low-income Americans don’t get legal aid for civil conflicts.
Courts in New York have cleared paralegals, advocacy groups, etc to provide services that used to require attorneys, which are costly. AI apps and chatbots, with their rapidly advancing ability to handle complicated queries, are fast becoming another pathway to legal aid and in turn justice.
Reclamo is likely to make legal aid with AI assistance more common and free up public prosecutors to focus on complex lawsuits. The data collected by Reclamo may also help target repeat offenders, and eventually turn into a point of reference for more advanced technology.
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