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May 19, 2016, San Francisco, CA - Sanford Heisler LLP, the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, and the California-based Foundation for Advocacy Inclusion and Resources (FAIR) today announced the selection of Allyssa Villanueva as the third Sanford Heisler Public Interest Diversity Fellow.

An Oakland native and critical race theorist, Villanueva graduated from U.C. San Diego in 2012 and the University of California Hastings in May.

 “Sanford Heisler is thrilled with this year’s selection. We are excited to see where Allyssa takes us with her story, passion, and dedication,” said Felicia Medina, Managing Partner of Sanford Heisler’s San Francisco office.  “We are confident that Allyssa will accomplish exactly what this fellowship was designed to inspire – diversity and inclusion. Given the current racial climate, Allyssa’s work matters now more than ever within our community.”

The Sanford Heisler Public Interest Diversity Fellowship attracted approximately 30 applicants from across the country this year. Giselle Olmedo, of San Francisco, a 2013 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, was selected as the inaugural Sanford Heisler Public Interest Fellow in May 2014, and Amelia Alvarez was selected as the second Fellow in May 2015.

Villanueva has a demonstrated commitment to labor and employment law, including serving as co-president of the Employment and Labor Law Student Association, and working in Hastings’ Individual Representation Clinic. She also worked at the Labor and Employment Law Division of the Oakland City Attorney's Office and recently completed an externship with Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu in the U.S. District Court, Northern District.

“I am committed to serving disenfranchised and marginalized communities. Employment law enables me to be a change agent for these communities in a fundamental way: advancing workers’ rights and dignity” said Villanueva.  “Coming from a low-income working class family, I intend to empower people like myself. I am excited to work with and learn from attorneys in the CELA network. The Sanford Heisler Fellowship will allow me to build my career and to further my advocacy.”
FAIR will provide Villanueva's salary and benefits with a grant from Sanford Heisler for the first six months of the year-long fellowship, during which time Allyssa will be working with the LAS-ELC.  Joan Graff, President of the LAS-ELC, expressed her enthusiasm for the fellowship stating, “we are hugely grateful to have the opportunity to participate in the training of talented attorneys like Allyssa who wish to pursue a civil rights career in employment and labor law and we deeply appreciate the support given to us by FAIR and Sanford Heisler, which makes this special Fellowship possible.”

“FAIR is thrilled to support its third SH Fellow,” added Supreeta Sampath, FAIR’s President.  “This exciting fellowship supports and cultivates the next generation of highly talented and passionate civil rights attorneys who we know will make significant contributions to increasing workplace fairness.”

About FAIR
FAIR is a California non-profit created by CELA leaders in 2009 to increase diversity in the plaintiffs' employment Bar and to raise public consciousness about workers' rights.

About Sanford Heisler LLP

SH is a national public interest law firm with offices in Washington, D.C., New York, San Francisco, and San Diego that specializes in employment discrimination, wage and hour, qui tam, and consumer class action litigation. The firm has represented thousands of individuals in major class action cases in the United States. The firm also represents individual clients in sexual harassment, whistleblower, public accommodations, commercial, medical malpractice, and personal injury matters. In May 2010, SH won the largest jury award in the U.S. in a gender discrimination employment class action when a jury returned a verdict of $253 million in compensatory and punitive damages against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation.  In 2012, the firm won court approval to settle a wage and hour case on behalf of sales representatives employed by Novartis Pharmaceuticals for $99 million. 

LAS-ELC, founded in 1916, protects the rights and economic self-sufficiency of working poor people by providing a wide range of free legal services and by engaging in policy advocacy, public education, and technical assistance on behalf of low-income workers and their communities.  LAS-ELC addresses the full spectrum of employment-related issues for its clients, such as unpaid wages; denial of family and medical leave; denial of disability accommodations; and discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, immigration status, language, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.