Fighting for Fair Pay

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Karen Kithan Yau



Born and raised in a Hong Kong public-housing project, I emigrated to New York in my early teens. I struggled with contradictions between the media imagery of the United States and my own reality of language barriers, racial taunts, and alienation from parents who toiled long hours in sweatshops for family survival. This perspective has compelled me to commit my career to the public interest and the rights of workers.

Karen dedicates her work to vindicating the rights of employees and workers. She has nearly three decades of legal experience working with employees, workers, immigrants, and other low-income people, including over nine years as an Assistant Attorney General in the Labor Bureau at the New York State Attorney General, where she led investigations into labor violations in numerous industries, including the agricultural, greengrocer, moving, restaurant, and taxi industries.

Since joining Getman, Sweeney & Dunn, she has represented building superintendents, home health aides, mental health providers, nurses, and pawnbrokers, among other employees.

In addition, Karen has had varied law teaching and policy-related experiences. She was a recipient of a Skadden Fellowship at the National Employment Law Project and a Robert M. Cover Teaching Fellowship at Yale Law School and held an assistant professorship at Syracuse University College of Law. Karen also worked in management and leadership positions in not-for-profit policy and advocacy organizations.

Karen is active in bar associations and community organizations. She was a director of the board of the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) and the Asian American Law Fund of New York (AALFNY). Karen co-chaired AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee and spearheaded its Pro Bono Advice and Referral Clinic. In addition to AABANY, Karen is also a member of the Federal Bar Association, the National Employment Law Association/New York Chapter, and the New York City Bar Association.

Karen has received numerous awards and accolades for her pro bono work and contributions to the Asian American Pacific Islander community.

Karen frequently conducts training, speaks, and writes on employment matters, Asian America, cross-cultural competencies, and immigrants’ rights. Currently, she teaches Professional Responsibility at CUNY Law School.

Karen emigrated from Hong Kong and speaks Cantonese Chinese. A proud daughter of garment workers who toiled long hours and the exasperated mother of two children who excel in argument as an artform, Karen now lives in Brooklyn and Kingston, New York.

State Courts: New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut. Federal Courts: United States District Court for the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York and District of Connecticut.