Beaman Law

Justice for Working People.

Justicia Para el Pueblo Trabajador -- Justice for Working People

Beaman Law is the independent law practice of attorney Megan Beaman, rooted in the notion that all people deserve access to justice and enforcement of basic rights. Beaman Law's practice is founded on Megan's years of advocacy and activism in working class and immigrant communities, including the recent many years of successful representation of rural communities in Coachella Valley, Imperial Valley, and other parts of California. Beaman Law represents clients and communities in enforcing their rights in the areas of employment, housing, immigration, civil rights, and policy -- all with the understanding of the larger struggles for immigrant and worker justice in California and nationwide.

 

Employment, immigration, civil rights, empleo, inmigración, derechos civiles, derechos laborales, acoso laboral, labor, sexual, hostigamiento, labor, assault, sexual harassment, raza, race, national origin, origen nacional, lenguaje, language, dialect, dialecto, disability, descapacidad, medical condition, condicion medica, sex, sexo, gender, genero, color, voters, voter, citizenship, U visa, naturalization, naturalizacion, Coachella, Mecca, Thermal, Oasis, North Shore, Indio, Cathedral City, La Quinta, Desert Hot Springs, abogada, abogado, attorney, licensiada, licensiado, lisensiada, lisensiado, justicia, justice, pueblo, trabajador, working people, work, trabajo

Coachella leaders should seek solutions for farmworkers

The Desert Sun, May 23, 2016 -- Megan Beaman

Many recent comments made by Coachella’s mayor have caused me to question his characterization of the valley’s farmworkers, and his and the City Council’s intentions for this critical portion of Coachella’s population.

Farmworkers fuel the valley’s largest industry and labor in extremely strenuous conditions and positions for very low pay.  Recent preliminary studies show that Coachella is home to about 26 percent of the valley’s farmworkers, and a significant part of Coachella’s population.  However, that population in Coachella is shrinking with time; many advocates and residents, including myself, attribute some part of that shrinkage to the unaffordability of housing in Coachella, relative to more abundant and less expensive housing options in Thermal, Oasis, and Mecca.

Nonetheless, Coachella Mayor Steven Hernandez has recently and repeatedly emphasized that the city has too much affordable housing, and that it needs to draw higher income residents to the city.  This refrain rings of gentrification and disregards the importance of Coachella’s already existing population, as well as its contributions to the economies of Coachella and the broader Coachella Valley.

Other recent comments by Mayor Hernandez to The Desert Sun have disrespected the skills and integrity of farmworkers.  For example, he was quoted incomprehensibly suggesting that homeless Coachella residents displaced from their encampments by CalTrans could pick up work as farmworkers, a suggestion so misguided that it is hard to intelligently critique.  He was also recently quoted stating that he hoped farmworkers could move up in the world by finding jobs in new marijuana businesses anticipated to grow in Coachella, as if farmworkers’ current occupations were not dignified or respectable.

Farmworkers are skilled, committed, and critical to of the agricultural industry and, more importantly, to Coachella.  They are not disposable victims to be viewed on the bottom rung of the professional ladder, replaceable by anyone who wants to work, looking for someone like Mayor Hernandez to find them a “way out.”  They deserve the same respect and accommodations provided to Coachella residents of all other professions and income levels.

Instead of pitying farmworkers and devaluing their skills and dignity, Coachella’s mayor and City Council should be looking for policy and systems changes to improve the conditions in which they work and live.  For example, Coachella could implement ordinances to raise its minimum wage to a level that would provide a more comfortable standard of living for farmworkers, or provide for overtime requirements for farmworkers that would match those of all other industries by guaranteeing overtime pay after 40 hours of work. (Notably, current Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia will soon have the opportunity to vote in favor of a similar bill at the state level, AB 2757).  Coachella could also provide or identify funding support for low-income residents targeted by its increasing code enforcement actions, which would make upgrade feasible and displacement or punishment of the heart of Coachella’s population unnecessary.

Farmworkers provide Coachella with its history, strength, culture, and its very existence.  The mayor’s inability to see that strength is suggestive of the extent to which he and some other Coachella leaders have lost touch with their purported roots.

No free pass to discriminate against immigrant workers: Salas v. Sierra Chemical Co.

By Megan Beaman and Kevin Kish

Low-wage workers—regardless of immigration status—shoulder more than their fair share of workplace violations, including unpaid wages, unsafe working conditions, and discrimination and harassment.  Immigrant low-wage workers are particularly vulnerable—working under constant fear that if they exercise basic workplace rights, they will suffer retaliation that could result in the separation of their families; loss of homes and property; or return to violence or extreme poverty in their home countries.

To read the rest of this article, click HERE.

 

Newly Elected CVWD Board Member Cástulo Estrada Credits Beaman Law Clients for his Victory

Estrada: New CVWD election system a 'better way'

Ian James, The Desert Sun8:41 p.m. PST November 12, 2014

Cástulo Estrada, the 26-year-old political newcomer who won a seat on the Coachella Valley Water District board in last week's election, is thought to be the first Latino ever elected to the position.

In an interview after the vote, Estrada credited a newly adopted election system with making the ballots of voters in his district count.

"I think it was a great thing to do this voting by division instead of at large. I think it's more representative of the individual communities that exist here in the valley," Estrada said in a telephone interview. "I'm almost certain that if it was still at-large, this wouldn't have been possible."

Voters earlier this year backed a proposal to do away with the water district's at-large election system and adopt a system in which each board member is elected "by division," or by the voters of a single division. That initiative came after a group of voters complained that the at-large system violated the California Voting Rights Act and was unfair to Latino voters.

He said that under the old system it would have been a much closer race, and that he might not have been elected.

Estrada, a utilities engineer-in-training for the city of Coachella, represents Division 5, where Latino voters make up a large majority of his constituency. The district includes Coachella, Thermal, Mecca, Oasis and North Shore.

Estrada handily defeated incumbent Debi Livesay and former CVWD board member Russell Kitahara to secure the seat.

In previous races, Estrada said, there were "instances where the majority of the people in Division 5 would elect a candidate but the other divisions would outvote that person."

"I think this is a better way to do it. I think it's more direct and it just makes more sense," Estrada said.

He is one of two newly elected board members who will join the five-member CVWD board: Patrick O'Dowd, administrator of The Garden Fellowship in Bermuda Dunes, also won a seat and board president John Powell, Jr. was re-elected.

Several other boards in the area have recently decided to do away with their at-large election systems, including College of the Desert as well as the Desert Sands Unified and Palm Springs Unified school districts.

The Coachella Valley Water District, which has about 108,000 customers, serves an area spanning roughly 1,000 square miles from Cathedral City to communities around the Salton Sea. Latino residents make up more than one-third of the voting age population in the area.

Civil rights lawyers Robert Rubin and Megan Beaman, representing a group of several voters, notified the water board of their concerns about the at-large election system last year and had threatened to sue if the system wasn't changed.

Estrada said his priorities will include pushing for the construction of water and sewer lines to serve low-income communities in the eastern Coachella Valley. Many small mobile home parks in the area have long relied on septic tanks and private wells. Some of those water sources are tainted with arsenic or other contaminants, creating a costly problem that forces some families to buy bottled water.

"What I'm saying is that we need to start really addressing the lack of infrastructure and start making goals — five year goals, 10 year goals — of how we want to push the infrastructure," Estrada said.

Ian James can be reached by email at ian.james@desertsun.com and on Twitter: @TDSIanJames.

Coachella Valley to receive drought funding

Water districts in the Coachella Valley will receive $5.2 million from the state for drought-related projects.

The funding from the California Department of Water Resources was announced by the Coachella Valley Regional Water Management Group, which includes the area's five public water agencies as well as the Valley Sanitary District.

Coachella Valley Water District officials said in a statement that the funds will be used for water conservation and recycled water programs that reduce the use of groundwater.

"Funding from this grant also will help address water related issues that impact disadvantaged communities," the district said in the statement.

The funding is part of roughly $221 million awarded statewide by the Department of Water Resources for various drought-related projects.

Beaman Law Files Sex Discrimination Suit for Former Public Defender

Former deputy public defender sues Riverside County

Ian James, The Desert Sun5:04 p.m. PST November 11, 2014

A woman who used to work as a deputy public defender is suing Riverside County, alleging her supervisors discriminated against and harassed her.

Forest Wilkerson worked as a deputy public defender in Indio from 2006 to 2013.

Her lawsuit, which was filed last month in Riverside County Superior Court, says officials in the public defender’s office discriminated against her “by harassing her, denying and delaying her promotions and other employment opportunities, assigning her greater workload than her male counterparts in the same position, and failing to pay her equal to male counterparts for equal work performed.”

Attorney Megan Beaman announced the lawsuit in a news release Tuesday, saying the county is being served with the lawsuit this week.

“I think the case is important because we’re talking about a public agency whose job it is to defend the rights of others,” Beaman said. “And here we find out that they’re violating the rights of their employees, so it’s important for the public to know that.”

Ray Smith, a spokesman for Riverside County, said he would check to see whether the county has been served with the lawsuit. A response wasn’t immediately available on Tuesday since it was a holiday.

Before suing, Wilkerson filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Beaman said the EEOC found reasonable cause to believe that sex discrimination occurred, and issued to Wilkerson a “right to sue” letter.

Among various complaints, Wilkerson says in the lawsuit that the county denied her application for a promotion while promoting two male employees with less experience in the office.

Wilkerson also claims that Assistant Public Defender Bryant Villagran, who was a supervisor in the Indio office at the time, criticized female employees and questioned their competence.

The lawsuit says that Villagran’s behavior included “calling female employees ‘incompetent’ and ‘not real attorneys.’”

Reached by phone, Villagran declined to speak about the case.

“It would be inappropriate to comment while there’s pending litigation,” said Villagran, who is now retired.

Attorney Megan named 2014 Civil Rights leader

On May 17, 2014 Coachella Valley democrats honored Megan Beaman by giving her the 2014 Civil Rights Award.  The award ceremony also served as a fundraiser for the Democratic Women of the Desert.  Megan's award was presented by the Democratic Women of the Desert Board, as well as prominent Democratic elected officials Congressmember Raul Ruiz, Assemblymember V. Manuel Perez, Senator Benjamin Hueso, Coachella Mayor Eduardo Garcia, and Desert Hot Springs Mayor Adam Sanchez.  

Megan's comments upon presentation of the award are copied below, at the request of several supporters who were present.  Colleague Silvia Paz accepted the award and gave Megan's comments on her behalf, since she was unable to attend due to her advanced pregnancy.  

It is not lost on me -- nor should be lost on any of you -- that I am receiving an award rooted in the violations of others' rights.

I am a white, US-born, English-speaking, educated professional who has benefited tremendously from the systems of privilege in this country.  I am also a woman. I also grew up poor. I also am giving birth soon to a multi-racial baby girl who will join a family of mixed immigration statuses.

And so, like me, all of you have different privileges and challenges in your own lives, and different relationships to privilege and oppression, based precisely on who you are in our shared world.

Civil rights stand for the basic principle that -- despite the differences between us -- all of us have inherently equal value as human beings.  The workers who cultivated and prepared our food today are as equally valuable as those of us who eat it, as well as the officials we help to elect.  The workers in this country club and on this golf course are as equally valuable as the homeowners and golfers who benefit from their labor.

Civil rights are not given or earned. They are constant. They are inalienable.  And no matter where any of us fall in the spectrum, it is ALL of our responsibility to ensure that no one tries to deny those rights.

It is my privilege to receive an award for work that I have done to fulfill this responsibility, on behalf of others--many of whom continue suffering in their own ways.

I truly appreciate the support and the camaraderie of the Democratic Women, and our other allies and friends, and look forward to more collaboration and more victories on June 3 and beyond.

And.....YES ON MEASURE D for more accountable Coachella Valley Water District representation and less dilution of Latino voting blocks!

 

 

 

 

Attorney Megan is named a 2013 star!

2013 Star: Megan Beaman

Coachella Unincorporated

 

Megan Beaman: Fighting for Justice in the Community

 

Why Her Star Shone Brightly in 2013

Attorney Megan Beaman had a stellar 2013. Her independent law practice, Beaman Law, helped numerous community members and organizations fight for their rights in the areas of employment, housing, immigration, civil rights, and policy.

For example, as the attorney for Comité de la Calle Pierce, she led the effort to have the Coachella Valley Water District adhere to the California Voting Rights Act – a big step in the struggle for water rights in the Eastern Coachella Valley. As attorney to Pueblo Unido Community Development Corporation, she helped the organization achieve major overhauls in policies and practices that have prevented infrastructure and community improvements for years.

Explains Beaman, “The Comité and many other residents and advocates have been pleading and fighting for years for water and wastewater extensions to East Valley Communities where none exist–despite that the Coachella Valley Water District includes those areas within its ‘coverage’ zone.  The communities have also pleaded for respectful and legal treatment by enforcement and permitting authorities, who have historically not favored the preservation of East Valley mobilehome communities.  As a result of these and other struggles, many East Valley communities are often relying on untreated and sometimes contaminated drinking water from privately-dug wells, inadequate septic systems that sometimes backup and overflow into their yards and homes, and inadequate and unsafe electricity systems and other problems for which they still struggle to improve.”

Highlight of 2013

“I am excited and have been honored to be hired this year as attorney to the Comité de la Calle Pierce, as well as several other Eastern Coachella Valley Residents, who this year embarked on a historic campaign to reform the electoral system of the CVWD,” says Beaman. “In that effort, we evaluated the CVWD’s system, and determined that it likely violated the California Voting Rights Act and other laws by diluting Latino votes. We made demands to the CVWD that they reform the system to ensure that Latino voters were able to vote for their own representatives, instead of being outnumbered by white voters in other parts of the Valley, and to request that the district lines be redrawn to make sure that Latinos were neither overly-packed into districts, nor illegally divided.

So far, the CVWD has indicated a willingness to voluntarily comply with our demands, indicating an incredible and historic civil rights and water rights victory is in the making — all thanks to the initiative of a handful of East Valley leaders.”

Biggest Lesson Learned in 2013

“Community allies and opponents exist in all forms — we cannot rush to take sides when community conflict arises; we must evaluate those issues from all sides before carefully making our decisions about action and inaction for the benefit of ourselves and our communities,” says Beaman.

Goal for 2014

Beaman describes her goal for the coming year: “To continue to learn and grow in partnership with residents and leaders, all toward the achievement of justice(s) and health for Coachella Valley communities.”

- See more at: http://coachellaunincorporated.org/2013/12/17/2013-star-megan-beaman/#sthash.ZM2wUTXi.dpuf

 

For the original article, click here:  http://coachellaunincorporated.org/2013/12/17/2013-star-megan-beaman/

 

 

Beaman Law clients look for early victory in electoral and water rights!

Coachella Valley Water District to scrap at-large election system

Change comes after group challenged current vote system as unfair

 

Nov. 13, 2013   

Written by

Ian James

The Desert Sun

 

PALM DESERT — The Coachella Valley Water District voted to scrap its at-large election system on Tuesday after a complain­t by a group of voters that argued the system violated the California Voting Rights Act and was unfair to Latin­o residents.

The water agency’s five-member board voted unanimously to make the change, joining a growing list of cities and school districts across California that have similarly altered how elections are held in response to legal challenges.

Civil rights lawyers Robert Rubin and Megan Beaman, who represent a group of several voters, had notified the water board of their concerns last month and threatened to sue. They welcomed the agency’s response, while also saying they hope more is done to ensure Latino voters have adequate say and representation.

“This is what we hoped for. This is what the residents of the Coachella Valley are entitled to,” Rubin said in a telephone interview. He and Beaman said the water agency should next review the lines that separate its voting districts and involve the community through hearings to make sure the system is fair.

In previous elections, each member of the water agency’s board has been required to live within one of the five divisions, but voters throughout the area have voted at-large for all candidates. Under the ordinance approved Tuesday, board members will now be elected by voters of a single division.

The Coachella Valley Water District, which has about 108,000 customers, serves an area spanning roughly 1,000 square miles from Cathedral City to communities around the Salton Sea. Latino residents make up more than one-third of the voting age population in the area, but all of the water district’s board members are white.

“It was something that was due to come,” said Franz De Klotz, the board’s vice president. “While I have always thought of myself as representing the whole Coachella Valley, now it’s going to be a little bit more concentrated.”

Beaman and Rubin have argued that political power on the water board is linked to the longstanding problem of inadequate water and sewer service in poor communities of the eastern valley.

While new housing developments are required to cover the costs of building water and sewer lines, dozens of mobile home parks without water service have proliferated in the farmland of the eastern valley. Most of the trailer parks rely on septic tanks and private wells, some of which are contaminated with arsenic and other pollutants.

The water district’s officials have touted their efforts to help by seeking federal and state grants to pay for water systems for rural communities. De Klotz said he even donated his own money to help provide water filters for one mobile home park.

John Powell, the board’s president, said in a statement that the lawyers raised serious issues that had to be addressed. “I don’t want any of the district’s constituents to feel like they aren’t fairly represented, so I wholeheartedly support the change,” Powell said.

General Manager Jim Barrett recommended the switch in the electoral process, saying it would both provide better representation and sidestep a potentially expensive lawsuit.

In response to other possible lawsuits, the Desert Sands Unified School Board recently announced plans to change its election system, and the Palm Springs Unified School District is considering a similar change.

Rubin, who helped draft the Voting Rights Act of 2001, has since been involved in lawsuits across the state against cities such as Modesto, Anaheim and Palmdale, and recently reached a settlement in a suit against San Mateo County. The San Francisco attorney said the challenge to the water district’s system was his first focusing on a special district, and he called it “an important base of power.”

The lawyers are representing seven individuals and a committee of owners and managers of mobile home parks along Pierce Street in Thermal.

Find the original story here:  http://www.mydesert.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013311120010

Beaman Law clients challenge water district electoral system!

Latino voters in Coachella Valley seeking access to water, sewage services

Take Two | October 22nd, 2013, 10:44am

David McNew/Getty Images

A south-bound train passes farm workers shortly after sunrise on October 10, 2007 in the Coachella Valley near Mecca, California.

A group of residents in the Coachella Valley has complained to the Coachella Valley Water District about poor water access and sewage problems. They say at issue is the lack of diversity among local leaders and they claim the water district has violated California's Voting Rights Act by not allowing for sufficient representation of Latinos. For more on this, we're joined by Megan Beaman. She's a civil rights lawyer representing some of the Latino voters living in the Coachella Valley.

 

Listen to this original radio report recording by clicking on this link, and then "Listen Now":  http://www.scpr.org/programs/take-two/2013/10/22/34295/latino-voters-in-coachella-valley-seeking-access-t/

 

 

Beaman Law

Designated attorney for the Mexican Consulate Program of Legal Assistance for Mexican Nationals in the Exterior