Malensky’s Legal Aid Story

Boston-area mother and daughter weather COVID crisis with help from civil legal aid

Malensky had to take time off from work to care for her young daughter when the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to close. At her employer’s urging, Malensky agreed to take three months of unpaid leave from her job under the Family and Medical Leave Act to secure her position, location, and hours when she returned. Three months later—with her daughter safely back at school— Malensky tried to return to work, but her employer terminated her position.

With bills piling up, she applied for retroactive unemployment benefits to cover her unpaid leave, only to be denied. Malensky knew this wasn’t just.

“I figured there was no way this could be legally right,” Malensky explained. “There was no way this was okay.”

She mentioned her situation to her doctor, who recommended she contact Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), an MLAC-funded civil legal aid organization. GBLS took Malensky’s case, asserted her right to unemployment benefits, helped her appeal the decision, and had her funds released to her in a matter of weeks. This improved Malensky’s financial stability and helped her family weather the COVID crisis.

“I do not believe I would have been able to get my family out of that financial burden. I do not believe that we would have been able to be in a position we are in now if it wasn’t for the help of GBLS. And for that my family and I are extremely grateful,” Malensky said.

Malensky shared her story with hundreds of lawyers, law students, and advocates in January 2021 at Talk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid—a virtual lobby day urging the state legislature to increase legal aid funding.