Below is an excerpt from a June 15 piece written by a Community Legal Aid client and published by Worcester Telegram.
Driving around New England with 35 tons of stone and sand behind you isn’t an easy way to make a living. I know, because I’ve spent my entire career doing it. In fact, I’ve been around trucks my whole life. It’s the only work I know, and it supports my wife and our teenage son in our modest apartment in Dudley.
Or at least it did until last year, when I found out that no matter how many runs I did behind the wheel, I couldn’t make decent pay. I was working 60 or 70 hours in a week, but my employer only paid me for the time I was driving a loaded truck. All the paperwork and all the mandatory safety checks I had to do were on my own time. I didn’t get paid for any of it, and all the money I was losing meant I could no longer support my family.
One day, I just couldn’t take it any more. I called in to report for duty and was told to drive an empty truck nearly an hour from Chelmsford to Watertown, pick up a load, and drive it to Littleton. I asked my boss, “Are you going to pay me for the empty run to Watertown?”
“No,” he told me. “You know how it is.”
When I told him I wouldn’t drive for free, he told me to turn in my things. I assumed I was fired, so I did what he said.
I was shocked when I received a letter telling me my unemployment claim had been denied.
I didn’t know what to do. Eventually I noticed that the denial letter mentioned I might be able to qualify for free legal help to contest my denial of unemployment insurance. I called the number listed, and I was referred to Melissa Pomfred, a lawyer at Community Legal Aid in Worcester.
Melissa took my case, steered me through the legal system and state bureaucracy, and convinced the state that I was eligible for unemployment insurance.