Jessica Olave ’23 was named one of a few dozen law students in the nation to be a Student Fellow for Equal Justice Works’ Rural Summer Legal Corp. She will work with Legal Aid Services of Oregon (LASO) to help agricultural workers in rural counties of Oregon gain access to leave laws and other public benefits.
Olave will be researching regulations to strengthen OSHA in Oregon’s agriculture sector, creating a ‘Know Your Rights’ pamphlet for farm workers wanting to take sick leave or file ADA claims, and hosting an episode of LASO’s Spanish radio program, covering legal topics that directly affect farmworkers. She will also be assisting a number of clients, with cases ranging from discrimination to wage withholding to naturalization.
“There is one client I’m assisting that was directly sprayed with pesticides while she was working, which is not uncommon, and the inhumanity of it makes me so angry that sometimes I have to take a break and just walk around. But that’s how I know I’m in the right place because being able to actively do something about injustice is the whole reason I decided to go to law school,” Olave said.
Each year, Equal Justice Works partners with the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) for the Rural Summer Legal Corps (RSLC), a program for service-minded law students to address pressing legal issues facing rural communities. Program participants, called Student Fellows, serve at LSC-funded civil legal aid organizations where they spend eight to ten weeks during the summer helping to provide direct legal services, engaging in community outreach and education, and building capacity at the organizations where they are hosted.
This year, 35 Student Fellows were selected from 460 applications to work remotely at LSC-funded civil legal aid organizations, providing critical legal assistance to people in rural areas. In light of ongoing health and safety concerns, many of the Student Fellows will be working remotely this summer.
“Agriculture is one of the areas where climate and migration are the most intertwined. Farmworkers are outside doing difficult labor all day, risking heatstroke as temperatures rise and working under conditions where they often don’t have access to shade or potable water,” Olave said. “The vast majority of farmworkers are migrant laborers, many of whom are undocumented and are fearful of losing their jobs or being deported if they speak up. Adding to the problem is the fact that legal aid in rural areas is incredibly difficult to come by. Equal Justice Works partnered with Legal Services Corporation to create the Rural Summer Legal Corps, specifically to address this need.”
To learn more about the LASO office: https://oregonlawhelp.org/organization/farmworker-program-woodburn-office-legal-aid.