Abstract: Low Wage Workers and the Claims Making Process: Differences across the Lifespan (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

Low Wage Workers and the Claims Making Process: Differences across the Lifespan

Friday, January 18, 2019: 2:15 PM
Continental Parlor 8, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Berenice Castillo, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Shannon Gleeson, PhD, Associate Professor, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Background: Workplace violations are ubiquitous for low wage workers in the US, yet, the enforcement process relies on worker claims, which are plagued by employer evasion and insufficient resources for proactive enforcement (Bernhardt et al. 2008; Bobo 2008) . A vast amount of research on workplace violations has identified systematic and individual level factors that can pose significant challenges in filing and pursuing a workplace claim  (Garcia 2012; Gleeson 2016). One under-examined factor shaping claims behavior is age. Workers across the life course face a distinct set of challenges. For example, low wage workers include employed high school students, college students, young adults beginning their working career, and adults who depend on low wage labor as their main source of income. This study focuses on the differences across these age cohorts, and focuses not only on the factors that shape a worker’s decision to file a claim, but how they navigate the subsequent legal and bureaucratic processes. 

 Method: Quantitative survey and semi-structured interview data were collected from a sample of participants seeking assistance for a perceived workplace violation in legal aid centers in the San Francisco Bay Area. 451 adults were recruited at Time 1 and completed a survey. A subset of the sample at Time 2, n= 89, participated in semi-structured follow-up interviews. Interviews were recorded, translated, transcribed, and thematically coded for qualitative analysis. We first carry out a logistic regression on the full sample to examine age variation among low wage workers decision to seek assistance from their employer for their perceived workplace violation. Second, we examine qualitative interviews to identify age variation in the underlying mechanisms among low wage workers decision to seek assistance for a perceived workplace violation, file a claim, and pursue a claim to completion. Age was categorically coded to examine age groups: young adults(19-34), middle aged adults(35-54), and older adults(55+).

Results:  The sample of this study at time 1 was  53.54% male, 63.47% held some form of legal status (e.g., US citizenship or legal permanent resident), the majority, 66.67% were Latino, and the mean age was 43.11 years (SD: 12.27, Range: 19-80). The demographic characteristics at Time 2 follow-up interviews were comparable. Logistic regression results indicate that younger workers, 19-34, were significantly more likely to speak with their employer than middle aged, 35-54 (p< .01). Qualitative thematic analysis suggests there are similarities across age groups going through the claims making process, however, differences emerged, including differences in collateral financial and emotional burdens from the claim process, differences in satisfaction in settlement outcomes, and differences in perceptions of future employment.

Conclusion/Implication:  In this study we identified age-related differences and similarities in the claims making process and claim outcome of low-wage workers in the US who have experienced a workplace violation. This is important to consider as efforts are made to better support low-wage workers exercise their right to equitable and lawful working conditions, facilitate the claims making process, and reduce the collateral damage that may result from filing and pursuing a workplace claim.