Legal Aid Recognizes Contributions of Barbara McDowell

Barbara McDowell’s legacy continues. Her contributions at Legal aid were recognized in a recent Legal Aid blog discussing an important case that Legal Aid won. The blog said as follows:

In a case of first impression, the D.C. Court of Appeals issued a landmark decision on June 6, 2014, awarding full unemployment benefits to our client who was fired after repeated incidents of domestic violence that interfered with her workplace.

The case, E.C. v. RCM of Washington, Inc., clarifies when a job loss is “due to domestic violence,” under the 2004 domestic violence provision of the D.C. Unemployment Compensation Act (amended in 2010). The court held that the provision should be interpreted broadly to protect victims when domestic violence was a “substantial factor” in their job loss. In reaching this conclusion, the court recognized that victims of domestic violence often exhibit behaviors that, while intended to placate their abusers, may simultaneously undermine certain employer codes of conduct.

The victory in E.C. represents the hard work and dedication of Legal Aid’s public benefits, family law and appellate teams. And, as with all of our appellate victories, this case is a great tribute to Barbara McDowell and the work we do in her name. Some of Barbara’s earliest cases at Legal Aid were in the area of unemployment insurance, advocating for the Court of Appeals to more clearly define the state of mind requirement for gross and simple misconduct cases and establishing a line of case law that ensures that claimants in unemployment (and other) administrative trials got a fair chance to present their cases on the merits. Additionally, she also worked on several important cases on behalf of women attempting to escape domestic violence. E.C. is therefore a special tribute to Barbara, as it advances the rights of domestic violence survivors pursuing unemployment insurance, an essential safety net benefit.

(June 2014)