Founding Donor Interview: Terrell Marshall Law Group

For this interview, we talked with Toby Marshall from Terrell Marshall Law Group. Founding Donors have made deep, lasting investments in the success of Fair Work Center. 

Why did you choose to practice employment law?

Toby MarshallToby Marshall: “I grew up in a working-class family, and I know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck. I also know that employers hold a great deal of power over employees. These circumstances leave many workers vulnerable to wage and hour abuses. One of my first cases as a lawyer involved a large company that regularly required its employees to work several hours without pay each week. The employees tolerated this for years because they were afraid to lose their jobs, which would mean losing their ability to put food on the table each day and pay rent each month. I practice employment law to fight for those who find themselves in this situation. Nobody should have to work without pay for fear of being unable to provide for his or her family.”

What are some challenges you see for workers today?

TM: “Workers face a variety of challenges, but one that seems to be on the rise is mandatory arbitration. Increasingly, employers are requiring workers to sign agreements with arbitration clauses that bar class and collective actions. The obvious goal is to prevent workers from banding together, to bar them from the courthouse, and to keep complaints confidential and violations hidden. Some courts have found such agreements to be illegal, saying they violate the right of employees to engage in concerted activity. Other courts, however, have allowed these agreements to stand (and ultimately serve as a get-out-of-jail-free card for employers).”

What change would you like to see to improve the welfare of all working people?

TM: “Greater access to justice. Wage theft is a serious problem in this country, affecting workers in all industries. One large-scale study found that two-thirds of the employees who were surveyed experienced at least one wage-and-hour violation in the previous workweek. The average wage loss per worker was 15 percent. Class and collective actions are helpful, but more resources are needed to assist individual employees who are being cheated on pay or subjected to unlawful working conditions. We are fortunate to live in a state that has strong wage and hour laws, but those laws don’t enforce themselves. Workers need advocates, whether it’s individual attorneys, agencies like Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries or Seattle’s Office of Labor Standards, or legal aid organizations like the Fair Work Center.”

Why does your firm support Fair Work Center?

TM: “The Terrell Marshall Law Group wants to support access to justice and to us, that’s what the Fair Work Center is all about. Our class action practice helps large groups of employees, but we know that’s only the tip of the iceberg. There are many other workers out there who aren’t getting any help whatsoever. By educating workers about their rights and providing them with greater access to the courts, the Fair Work Center is making it more likely that employers will do the right thing and follow the law.”

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