Labor and Employment Law Program

Advancing the World of Work Through Law

The Labor and Employment Law Program at Cornell University's ILR School brings together social scientists and attorneys to inform each other's work with the goal of addressing contemporary labor and employment law and workplace issues to influence litigation and public policy decisions.

Ending Worker Exploitation

Bigler appointed to task force advisory committee

UPDATE:  *On Nov. 12  the advisory committee to Governor Cuomo's Task Force to End Worker Exploitation met at ILR’s New York City Conference Center to hear worker’s testimony from the carwash, retail and home health care industries. Workers were able to testify in front of the committee and attendees anonymously, continuing with the Governor’s philosophy set out through the creation of the Anti-Retaliation and a Mediation Unit within the State Department of Labor to protect workers against the risk of retaliation.

The meeting was hosted by advisory committee member, Esta R. Bigler, director of ILR’s Labor and Employment Law Program, and chaired by Elizabeth de Leon Bhargava, deputy secretary to the governor for Labor and Workforce. It was attended by Roberta Reardon, interim commissioner of labor and fellow committee members.

This comes a month after the first public meeting of the advisory committee to the Task Force, which took place on Oct. 15. During that meeting, it was announced that $700,000 was being made available to the Task Force to coordinate and conduct outreach, education, investigations, prosecutions, data collection, and compliance efforts (read entire press release).*

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced July a first-of-its-kind statewide task force to root out worker exploitation issues in multiple industries in New York state. Building on the governor’s initiative to protect workers in the nail salon industry, the task force will identify and halt illegal practices in more industries across the state.

ILR’s Esta R. Bigler, director of the school’s Labor and Employment Law Program, has been named as one of 15 advisory committee members to help guide the work of the task force, providing legislative, regulatory and administrative recommendations. The committee will be charged with providing its first set of recommendations by December to be considered for next year’s legislative session.

Hailed as a critical addition to New York's fight against worker exploitation, the task force is composed of 10 state agencies including the Department of State, Department of Labor and Department of Agriculture and Markets.

“By creating this task force and its advisory committee, Governor Cuomo is shining a light on the need to protect all workers against exploitation,” Bigler said. “I am pleased to serve on the advisory committee, along with members of the state's labor and employer communities.”

“Our goal is to expand and enforce legal protections for workers to end abuse in the workplace and to improve their lives.”

Bigler, a graduate of Cornell ILR School, has a law degree from Georgetown University and began her law career as a field attorney with the National Labor Relations Board, litigating unfair labor practices cases and handling representation matters.

Joining private practice, she worked as an associate at Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard, P.C., where she represented unions in all phases of labor law and represented plaintiffs in Title VII litigation.

From there, Bigler entered public service, where she was the deputy director/general counsel of New York City's Bureau of Labor Services, which enforced the equal employment opportunity requirements imposed on city contractors.

Bigler joined the faculty of Cornell University as visiting associate professor of labor relations in 1987 and, in 1988, was appointed director of the school's New York City Extension Program, leading and overseeing a program of training, education, and research services, a position she held until establishing the Labor and Employment Law Program at ILR.

To view more information about the governor’s announcement, visit: