Seema N. Patel serves as Advisor for Labor and Civil Rights at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. She came to the Initiative from the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of the Solicitor, Division of Fair Labor Standards, in Washington, D.C., where she litigated wage and hour and whistleblower cases in federal appellate courts, drafted regulations, and assisted in the development of policy guidance regarding myriad federal wage and hour laws.
Prior to federal service, Seema advised the Mayor and City of Oakland on matters related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. After graduating from U.C. Berkeley Law School (Boalt Hall), Seema clerked for the Honorable Andre M. Davis, U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (currently, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit), and the Honorable Harry Pregerson, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She then relocated to Gujarat, India, to work with Manav Sadhna, an NGO based at Mahatma Gandhi’s Ashram, where she organized female slum-dwelling “ragpickers” (trash collectors) into a cooperative society and advocated on their behalf for state recognition and benefits.
While at Boalt Hall, Seema worked in the Community Economic Justice Unit at East Bay Community Law Center and was actively engaged in Oakland Chinatown community organizing efforts. She also served as co-Editor-in-Chief of the Asian American Law Journal, Diversity Editor of the California Law Review, Symposium Editor for the Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law and President of the South Asian Law Students’ Association. Prior to law school, Seema worked for the Union of Needletrade, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE; now, UNITE-HERE) in New Jersey and New York organizing Asian immigrant laundry workers and spent two years working with Manav Sadhna on children’s education and women’s empowerment programs. She received her B.A. in Political Science, Rhetoric and German from the University of California, Berkeley, and is a member of the California Bar.