Los Angeles Workers Face More Wage, Labor Violations Than N.Y., Chicago

By | January 8, 2010

Low-wage workers in Los Angeles experience more wage and labor violations than low-wage workers in Chicago and New York, a new study by the UCLA’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment has found.

The survey found that low-wage workers in Los Angeles regularly experience violations of basic laws that mandate a minimum wage and overtime pay and are frequently forced to work off the clock or during their breaks. Other violations included a lack of required payroll documentation, being paid late, tip stealing, and employer retaliation.

“In nearly every case, the violation rates are higher in Los Angeles than in New York and Chicago,” the study’s authors Ruth Milkman,Ana Luz González and Victor Narro said.

Among their findings:

  • The survey suggests that the workers’ compensation system is very rarely used by low-wage workers. Only 4.3 percent of Los Angeles respondents who experienced a serious on-the-job injury during the previous three years had filed a workers’ compensation claim for their most recent injury.
  • Of seriously injured Los Angeles. respondents, 42.3 percent reported that they were required to work despite their injury, an additional 30.3 percent said their employer refused to help them with the injury, and 12.6 percent were fired shortly after the injury.
  • Just over half (51.3 percent) of Los Angeles respondents who experienced a serious injury at work sought medical attention, but within this group, only 48.6 percent indicated that their employers paid any part of their medical bills.
  • Almost 30 percent of the Los Angeles. workers sampled were paid less than the minimum wage in the work week preceding the survey, a higher violation rate than in New York City, but with no statistically significant difference from Chicago.
  • 63.3 percent of workers were underpaid by more than $1 per hour.
  • Among all Los Angeles respondents, more than three-fourths (79.2 percent) of those at-risk workers were not paid the legally required overtime rate by their employers.
  • Nearly one in five Los Angeles. respondents (17.6 percent) stated that they had worked before and/or after their regular shifts in the previous work week and were thus at risk for off-the-clock violations. Within that group, 71.2 percent did not receive any pay at all for the work they performed outside their regular shift.
  • Among all Los Angeles respondents, 89.6 percent worked enough consecutive hours to be legally entitled to a meal break. However, more than three-fourths (80.3 percent) experienced a meal break violation in the previous work week. The Los Angeles meal break violation rate was higher than that found in New York City, but Chicago had the lowest rate of the three cities.
  • Among all workers in the Los Angeles sample, 14.7 percent had either made a complaint in the year prior to their interview or (in a few cases) had attempted to form a union. Nearly half (47.7 percent) of those respondents who had made complaints or attempted to organize reported that they had experienced retaliation from their employer or supervisor as a result.

“These problems are not limited to the underground economy or to a few bad apples,” the survey’s authors said. The survey found that both large and small employers across a variety of industries regularly violate the law. And the report found that the type of job in which a worker is employed is a far better predictor of violations than the worker’s demographic characteristics.

To view the full report, visit http://www.irle.ucla.edu/events/2010/pdf/LAwagetheft.pdf.

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