“Danger and Dignity: Immigrant Day Laborers and Occupational Risk” Sheds Light On The Many Issues Immigrant Day Laborers Face While Working In Northern Virginia.

Just about two years ago, I had the pleasure of being a research assistant for Jayesh Rathod, Professor of Law at American University, College of Law, and assisted with the research of his published article, “Danger and Dignity: Immigrant Day Laborers and Occupational Risk.”

The article is described in the abstract and seeks to answer the question; “Why are foreign-born workers at greater risk for workplace injuries and fatalities, when compared to their native-born counterparts?”

The study which was conducted over the period of a few months, sheds light into a much needed area that explains the importance of the connection between immigrant Day Laborers and  occupational safety by using the findings from interviews of eighty-four immigrant Day Laborers in Northern Virginia.

This article explores whether undocumented workers are more susceptible to retaliatory threats relating to deportation, given the common narrative regarding abusive employers who will threaten workers with deportation.  Although explicit immigration-related threats were rare among this group of workers, most of the Day Laborers were vulnerable economically, which can create a disincentive to reporting workplace hazards.  The study also found that some employers would violate multiple laws, creating an environment in which safety violations exacerbated prior employment law violations, such as withholding of wages, hostile work environment, or discrimination in the workplace.  

Specifically, the study found that forty-six percent of interviewees had suffered some form of workplace injury. Some of the injuries sustained by the Day Laborers include the following: severe cuts, a fall from a rooftop or a high ladder, repetitive strain injuries, and chemical injuries. One worker described falling down from a roof about sixteen feet to the concrete floor due to the lack proper equipment, the worker describes it as, “not secured or tied down.”  Of the workers who had experienced a workplace injury “three-fourths of them had not been trained in how to do the work which gave rise to the injury or illness,” nor were they provided the proper equipment at the time of the injury.  

The results of this research provide a great emphasis on the benefits of training by a trade union or a work center, thus reducing the risk of potential accidents. It compares the response of those interviewees who were provided the proper training by a center or an employer, versus those workers who did not receive any training or instruction.  

This data could be used to analyze the difficulty of enhanced agency regulation, but  Rathod uses the data in a more holistic approach by encouraging, “regulatory silos in employment law could better coordinate to detect unlawful working conditions.”

To download a copy of the article, please visit:


Jayesh Rathod, Danger and Dignity: Immigrant Day Laborers and  Occupational Risk, 46 Seton Hall L. Rev. 813 (2016).

By: Daniela Carrion