Emmy Pasternak, Outreach and Case Development Manager, LRIS
In 1977 Taghi Astanehe got his law school degree from the National University of Iran. And in the following year, at the age of 24, he moved to the United States to attend University of San Francisco’s Master’s in Business Administration program. Although he was thousands of miles away from his home country, the fallout of the 1979 Iranian Revolution did not leave him unscathed. Astanehe was forced to leave graduate school and join the workforce; however his desire to practice law in the United States never left him. After taking a few courses at Golden Gate University, Astanehe sat for and passed the California Bar Exam in 2005.
Since 2010 Astanehe has participated in BASF’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) as a member of the General Practice, Personal Injury, and Labor Relations panels. Recently a case referred to him through the Labor Relations panel reached a respectable settlement. The case involved a man who believed he had been fired because of his religious practices. As a Muslim, the man required certain hours off of work so he could observe religious practices. His requests for time off were denied, he was relocated to an office that greatly increased his commute time, he was assigned duties that qualified as those for a non-exempt employee but never paid overtime, and he was eventually terminated under the guise of “restructuring.”
Discrimination in the workplace can be difficult to prove, especially when there is a lack of hard evidence such as a defamatory letter written on company letterhead or an impartial eyewitness. In studying the client’s hours and wages Astanehe found the employer had misclassified the client as exempt and had failed to pay overtime; possibly in retaliation for the client’s request for time to observe his religious practices. “Some businesses intentionally misclassify their employees to reduce operational costs. The employee may not know the law and just feels lucky to be employed. It is the lawyer’s duty to ask relevant questions to determine the extent of the violation,” Astanehe says.
Astanehe sees the practice of law “like solving a puzzle; it’s both frustrating and satisfying.” Astanehe solved the puzzle of how to rectify this fired employee’s situation. Through mediation the two sides reached an agreement resulting in a five-figure settlement, an immensely satisfying conclusion for the client. For Astanehe, he is rewarded and gratified by “the appreciation my clients show me when they say ‘Taghi, you really helped me, thank you.’”
Astanehe encountered obstacles on his path to becoming a lawyer but each step of the way he found a solution to bring him closer to his goal. Today Astanehe works to resolve the obstacles in his clients’ lives and enjoying great success.
Learn more: For information on how to join the Lawyer Referral and Information Service, visit www.sfbar.org/lawyerreferrals/att.aspx. Read more about our program, download panel applications, and view attorney testimonials. You may also contact LRIS Membership Coordinator, Yvonne Ng, at 415-782-8951 or firstname.lastname@example.org. LRIS is a revenue generating program, the proceeds of which help to support the Justice & Diversity Center’s charitable programs.