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Labor Violation in Los Angeles and the Role of Public Policy Development

January 12, 2010

In yesterday's post, our California Employment and Labor Attorneys discussed a new report released last week by the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, that surveyed 1,815 workers in Los Angeles County in 2008, focusing on low-wage workers who were most likely to experience some form of wage and hour violation in the workplace--workers in professions like the garment industry, service industry, construction, and domestic help. Compared to Chicago or New York, low-wage workers in Los Angeles were most found most likely to be subjected to workplace violations based on pay.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the study was geared to focus on the largely immigrant workforce that is often missed in regular employment surveys--17% of all workers in Los Angeles County, or 750,000 people. In the report, 56.4% were immigrants with no documentation, a vulnerability that is often exploited by employers. Nearly 75% of the workers in the study were Hispanic, and almost 60% of the workers claimed to not have a high school education.

According to the five-year study, workplace violations are the result of employer decisions--on whether or not to pay minimum wage and overtime, to give workers lawful meal breaks, overtime pay, pay documentation, safe working conditions, or how to respond to complaints in the workplace.

The report found that small and large employers throughout Los Angeles County are violating labor laws on a regular basis, and that certain sectors of the Los Angeles economy have allegedly built business strategies that incorporate labor law violation--especially with Los Angeles workers who have no union representation, and who are employed in service or apparel industries, and construction.

Gender, race, place of birth and ethnicity all also factored into labor and employment violation rates in this study. Minimum wage violations were higher for women than for men, the highest were reportedly female immigrants who had no documentation. Rates were also higher for immigrants, than for workers born in the U.S. The violation for Latinos was reported to be drastically higher than for whites--foreign born Latinos had the highest number of minimum wage violations of any racial or ethnic group in the study.

The authors of the study advise that public policy should play a pivotal role in protecting the rights of workers in the future. According to the study, the best solution for preventing workplace violation is to implement three basic principles that need to be developed for policy agenda on the local, state and federal levels:

  • Government enforcement of existing labor and employment laws need to be strengthened through staffing, new strategies, and employer violation targeting. Unlawful employers should be penalized more severely for violating the law.
  • Legal standards should be reformed to raise the minimum wage, update safety and health standards, expand overtime coverage, and give workers a stronger right to organize through labor law reform.
  • Immigrants should be granted equal status to protect them from violation, so they are protected under U.S. employment and labor law.

Many documented and undocumented workers also need to be educated about U.S. employment and labor law rights and coverage, and to be encouraged not to have fear of deportation, employer retaliation, and the constant possibility of exploitation by employers in the workplace. According to the study, this is especially important in Los Angeles, where the largest unauthorized immigrant population in any county or city in this country lives.

If you or someone you know in Los Angeles, Orange County, or throughout Southern California has experienced violations of employment and labor laws, our Anaheim-based team of experienced attorneys and professionals can help. From hour and wage cases, to overtime compensation, health and safety protection in the workplace, and the right to be treated fairly in the workplace--our lawyers at Howard Law PC will fight for your rights. Please contact us online for a free consultation.

L.A. Leads New York, Chicago, in Abuse of Low-wage Workers, Survey Says, Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2010

Related Web Resources:

U.S. Department of Labor

OSHA