Legal Access Initiative

Ana Montesinos, a Cambridge hotel housekeeper, tripped over a sheet, severely injuring her right knee.  When her temp agency employer refused to grant her workers compensation to pay for surgery, Montesinos turned to the MassCOSH Worker Center. 

MassCOSH staff helped Montesinos obtain medical documentation and linked her with legal committee member Paul Murphy. “Ana had visited a health center initially and they misclassified the injury,” said Murphy. “MassCOSH assistance was instrumental in allowing Ana to find treating physicians who… classified it as a work injury.” As a result of Montesinos’ hard-fought efforts and support from Murphy and MassCOSH, the temp agency’s insurer compensated Montesinos.

MassCOSH Legal Access Initiative links the state’s lowest income and most vulnerable workers with legal representation and enforcement resources to help them achieve their workplace rights. Through this initiative, workers address a host of labor violations such as health and safety, workers compensation, wage and hour and defend against sexual harassment, assault, discrimination, and retaliation.

To maximize impact and effectiveness and to connect with traditionally hard-to-reach populations, MassCOSH:

  • Expands beyond addressing individual cases to impacting entire workplaces by encouraging workers to recruit their co-workers to participate in legal, enforcement and organizing efforts.
  • Provides critical support to cases, such as linking workers with experienced occupational health providers who can provide documentation critical to the success of a workers compensation or third party case.
  • When appropriate, helps workers and their attorneys gain leverage through other forms of employer pressure such as government enforcement or public pressure.
  • Involves workers as leaders in the process so they are not just recipients of legal justice but active participants who continue to promote economic justice long after their case is over.
  • Engages workers who have benefited from our worker center as leaders in reaching out and encouraging other workers to participate.

Since 2007, the Legal Access Initiative has achieved great impact:

- The Legal Access Initiative pro bono panel, comprised of almost 50 attorneys, provided pro bono legal information, services, and resources to support almost 8,000 low-income immigrants of color who were otherwise disenfranchised from the judicial system

- Through support from the MassCOSH Legal Committee, participating attorneys were better able to provide services to low-income immigrants particularly in the areas of sexual harassment and abuse, workers’ compensation evasion, wage theft, labor trafficking, retaliation, and other illegal health and safety practices

- 1,350 low-income immigrants accessed legal services to address specific illegal, abusive, unsafe, and unhealthy workplace situations.

- Over 3,000 low-income immigrants benefited from accessible pro bono legal representation and assistance in navigating workers’ compensation, wage theft, sexual harassment, and labor law enforcement systems

- Systemic problems that deter the administration of justice were identified in the workers' compensation judicial system and within enforcement agencies, improving protections for temporary workers and increasing access to workers compensation benefits, without retaliation, for non-English speakers.

- The Legal Access Initiative developed capacity to address cases involving the workplace sexual harassment and abuse of low-income immigrant women and referrals for those needing support with issues related to immigration status.

MassCOSH Lawyers’ Committee

The purpose of the MassCOSH Lawyers’ Committee is to:

  • Foster referrals to attorneys from MassCOSH
  • Engage the legal community in policy and legislation efforts
  • Encourage attorney contributions to articles, educational materials, and workshops
  • Support MassCOSH’s advocacy and other efforts.

The lawyers who belong to our network benefit through dozens of referrals, a vibrant web of supporters, specialists, and MassCOSH members to ensure safe and healthy jobs and communities for all.

To learn more about the MassCOSH Lawyers’ Committee or the Legal Access Initiative, contact Jodi Sugerman-Brozan at 617-825-7233 x15 or