U.S. Law Center

Undocumented workers face workplace dangers

It is no secret that migrant and temporary workers have a difficult and insecure plight in the American workplace. They often have to take the toughest jobs that no one else wants, and must perform them for less than other American workers. As such, they are injured more often and are less likely to report accidents.

A recent report by Rawstory.com highlighted a number of injuries suffered by undocumented workers. In Florida, a Puerto Rican temporary worker was nearly killed when he was caught by an "industrial peeler" at a carpet factory. Investigators noted that he had was not given safety equipment or given training before trying to complete the job.

Also, a Mexican man in Illinois was killed when a majority of his body was burned after a solution of boiling water and acid exploded. Again the man had no formal training or safety gear to protect him from such a calamity.

Given these dangers, conventional wisdom would suggest that undocumented workers would complain about safety issues, just like any other employee. However, they are more afraid of losing a job (due to complaining about conditions) than raising issues about their workplace. Moreover, they fear that disgruntled employers will use their status against them and initiate visa fraud proceedings or other punitive measures.

A 2005 Human Rights report illustrates this point. It highlights a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Hoffman Plastics v. the National Labor Relations Board, where an undocumented employee who attempted to unionize employees was ensnared in a visa fraud lawsuit and subsequently deported.

Nevertheless, more awareness must be brought to combat the problem of worker mistreatment.

Source: RawStory.com, Temporary and migrant workers face 'systemic' problem of workplace dangers, March 28, 2013

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