New Chatbot Explains Workers’ Rights to Leave and Pay During COVID-19September 30, 2020
Legal Aid at Work and Generation Spark are happy to introduce a new tool: “Advokat,” an AI-powered computer chatbot program that can help workers determine how they can keep their jobs and income when they are unable to work during the pandemic.
The COVID-19 health crisis has caused many California workers to ask, “Can I take time off from work? Will I be paid? And will my job be protected when I go on leave?” Whether they are ill or have been exposed to COVID-19, are caring for vulnerable family, or caring for a child whose school has closed, workers need to know how to keep their jobs and income while caring for themselves and their loved ones.
In the United States, where we do not have national, universal, equitable, paid leave, there is no simple answer. A worker’s right to leave and pay may depend on the size of the employer, their tenure, hours, the reason they need leave, the city they work in, and more. And these qualifications continue to change as California, as well as individual cities and counties, continue to adopt new laws to respond to this unprecedented crisis, including recently enacted legislation expanding the right to job-protected family and medical leave and COVID-related paid sick days, AB 1867 and SB 1383.*
These protections are especially essential to workers with low wages. Low-wage workers are less likely to be able to work from home, more likely to be considered “essential workers” (and therefore lack the same protections that many other employees get), more likely to be vulnerable to job loss, and less likely to have savings to support their families if they lose their jobs.
Advokat explains workers’ rights related to job protected leave and pay in a way that’s personalized, accurate, and easy to understand. “When you’re dealing with a medical crisis, the last thing you have time for is in-depth research into California’s employment policies. Our goal is to make sure that families can get the information they need, without that burden.” explained Katie Wutchiett, Staff Attorney for Legal Aid at Work’s Work and Family Program. Advokat tailors its responses based on the user’s individual workplace, tenure, and medical needs. You can access Advokat through the green bubble in the bottom right hand corner of this page and Legal Aid at Work’s website, which looks like this:
Advokat is the co-creation of Generation Spark and Legal Aid at Work, with support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Blue Shield of California Foundation. Generation Spark—led by Ash Chhibbar, a data scientist, who co-founded an AI company 15 years ago and developed a multi-national platform, and Nira Datta, a writer and content design professional with a passion for accessibility—has contributed technological know-how and expertise in creating user-friendly platforms. Legal Aid at Work has provided the legal knowledge and subject-matter expertise. Working together, they have built Advokat to raise awareness of COVID-19-related leave rights in California. “We’re applying AI technology to both explain the patchwork of laws more simply and only what’s most relevant to your personal situation. We hope this tool will help workers make more informed decisions,” Nira explained
Generation Spark and Legal Aid at Work are continuing to work on Advokat to address additional leave scenarios, update it as the law changes, and translate it into Spanish and Chinese.
A video showing the look and feel of Advokat on Legal Aid at Work’s website is included below:
*Photo of essential worker provided courtesy of Paul Sableman via a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.