As a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Human Rights Program, Chandra Bhatnagar advocates on behalf of immigrant workers, an often-overlooked and particularly vulnerable segment of the U.S. population. His clients include Indian guest workers trafficked to the U.S. by an Alabama-based shipbuilding giant and allegedly subjected to inhumane conditions, including overcrowded and unsanitary
labor camps and exorbitant recruiting fees and living costs. Chandra and his co-counsel represent a dozen men and work with several major law firms, including Skadden, which represent hundreds of others in human trafficking and racketeering actions against the same defendants.
Among Chandra’s greatest successes, he says, is a jury trial he and his co-counsel handled for a Nepali domestic worker against her New Jersey employer, who abused her psychologically and only paid her a few hundred dollars for five years of work, forcing her to work long hours day after day, with no medical care. By the time she sought legal help, the statute of limitations for her claims had
expired, so Chandra and his co-counsel asserted a novel theory, quantum meruit, which required them to show that the employer had been unjustly enriched at the woman’s expense. After the jury awarded a substantial amount, the woman brought her family to the U.S. and began working with Adhikaar, a New York-based Nepali community organization that assists other abused domestic workers.
“She’s among the most inspiring people I’ve ever met. Seeing her grow from someone who was so traumatized and abused and believed so little in her own self-worth, to a confident, independent grandmother who is part of this wonderful human rights organization, has been just awesome,” Chandra says.