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New Study Reveals More Abuse of Low-wage Workers in Los Angeles

January 11, 2010

In a recent blog, our Southern California Labor and Employment Lawyers discussed a study released by UCLA last year that surveyed over 4,000 low-wages workers in 2008 throughout Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, examining financial discrimination and systematic violations of employment and labor laws in low-wage industries.

A new report was released last week that is part of the same study, and focuses specifically on Los Angeles County, the home of the largest population of undocumented workers in this country. The authors describe this study as a significant effort to focus on the largely immigrant workforce that is often missed in regular surveys.

The study, entitled "Wage Theft and Workplace Violations in Los Angeles," released by the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, surveyed 1,815 workers in Los Angeles County in 2008, all in low-wage professions, where the average worker's salary was $8 per hour. The study focused on domestic workers, garment workers, service industry employees, and construction workers, and found that compared to Chicago or New York, low-wage workers in Los Angeles County were the most likely to experience some form of pay-related violation in the workplace.

The survey also found that low wage workers are often robbed of their legal rights, by being forced to work during their breaks and off the clock, subjected to a lack of payroll documentation, stealing of tips, late pay, retaliation by employers, and being forced to work with employment-sustained injuries. According to the report, in almost every case, the rates of violation are higher in Los Angeles than the rates shown in Chicago or New York.

According to the report:

  • Almost 30% of the workers surveyed in Los Angeles were paid less than the minimum wage in the work week preceding the survey, and around 80% of the workers had not received their lawful right to overtime compensation.
  • According to California law, with every four-hour shift, workers have the legal right to take a ten-minute rest break, a requirement that is frequently violated. The study found that 81.7% of workers who were eligible for the breaks were either robbed of the rest time, or had the break reduced.
  • California law also requires that workers receive clear documentation of their pay, and in the study, 63.9% did not receive this.
  • Tip stealing occurred in 19.2% of tipped workers, even though it is illegal for managers or employers to take any portion of tips given by customers in tipping-based environments.
  • Among all of the workers interviewed, 14.7% had filed employment complaints the previous year, or tried to form a union--over half of these workers experienced retaliation as a result of their efforts.
  • 20.1% of workers did not complain when they experienced severely dangerous working conditions, wage theft, or discrimination. Another 59.7%, of workers did not complain because they were afraid of losing their jobs, 13.6% were fearful of wage or hour reduction, and 31.4% felt it wouldn't make a difference it they complained.
  • The study also found that low-wage workers don't frequently use workers' compensation--only 4.3% of workers who workplace sustained injuries filed a worker's compensation claim to pay for medical care.

At Howard Law, PC, our employment and labor lawyers believe that all employees are entitled to a workplace free from unlawful discrimination and violations of employment and labor laws. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against or has been subjected to violations in the workplace in Orange County and throughout Southern California, contact our attorneys today.

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