Gender, Race, and Nationality Differences in Low Wage Workers' Access to Sick Leave

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 14:39
Location: Hörsaal I (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Cynthia DEITCH, Women's Studies & Sociology, George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA
Rachel BRESLIN, George Washington University, USA
Focusing on access to paid sick leave, we examine the multiple marginalization of low-wage, racial minority and especially immigrant women by labor market divisions, employer practices, and public policies. Workers in low-wage sectors are less likely than others to have paid sick leave to care for their health or the health of a child. Given women’s family responsibilities as caregivers, this becomes a gender and work-family policy issue.  Racial/ethnic minority and immigrant workers are more likely than others to hold jobs that do not allow sick days, making an analysis of the intersection of gender, class, race, and immigration especially relevant.  The U.S. does not have any mandated national paid sick leave policy, but in recent years several states and localities have passed sick and safe leave (covering safe time for domestic violence survivors).  Research on other countries shows that even with national paid leave policies, marginalized workers have less access to the benefit.

 We analyze data collected from over 6,000 low income workers who sought legal assistance, for various complaints, from a local worker advocacy NGO in Washington DC in 2008-2015.  Of these, 97% were racial/ethnic minority, 47% were also immigrants; overall 46% were women. To assess implementation of local paid sick and safe leave law, all clients were asked about access to, and use of, paid sick days.  Initial findings show, for example, women were twice as likely as men to report being denied a requested sick day, with immigrants of both genders denied more than non-immigrants, and immigrant women denied the most.  Open-ended questions reveal incidents where women lost their jobs when they took time off to take a sick child to the doctor or hospital.  Our paper provides a multivariate and intersectional analysis of the data, and the larger workplace and policy issue.