When Melinda Gray lost her job in 2019 providing home health care services for an elderly individual, the system worked, and she was awarded unemployment benefits. However, her former employer appealed, twisting the words of the statute to argue that workers like Ms. Gray, who are employed directly by an individual in need of care rather than though a health care agency, could not receive benefits. The Claimant Advocacy Program (CAP) represented Ms. Gray in her administrative appeal, and the Administrative Law Judge agreed that Ms. Gray was entitled to benefits. Undeterred, Ms. Gray’s former employer filed a judicial appeal before the District’s highest court – the D.C. Court of Appeals.
With help from CAP, Legal Aid represented Ms. Gray before that Court, and Ms. Gray again prevailed. The Court of Appeals decision in Ms. Gray’s case finally settled her entitlement to benefits. The Court also definitively rejected all of her former employer’s legal theories and firmly established that the unemployment system covers home health care workers regardless of whether they are employed by an agency or directly by a patient. Thus, Ms. Gray’s victory was not only a personal one, but will also benefit the many members of Legal Aid’s client community who do the essential work of providing home health care services which allow elderly individuals and those with disabilities to remain in their homes and communities.
At the 2022 Servant of Justice Awards Dinner, Legal Aid honored Ms. Gray and the Claimant Advocacy Program, including attorneys Tonya Love and Lolita Martin, with the Partnership Award.