Help us Keep up the Fight for Immigrant Workers in 2024!

December 18, 2023

The Immigrant Worker Center was hard at work this year assisting workers with a myriad of cases, from refusal to cover sick time, to retaliation, to refusal to pay workers’ compensation, to outright wage theft. Many companies, unfortunately, continue to exploit workers, especially immigrant workers, and prioritize profits over their safety and wellbeing. Thankfully, our Immigrant Worker Center had a number of significant successes this year, holding many employers and bad actors accountable.

As an employee of three years for a manufacturing company that makes canvas products, Isabella* had been forced to work several days with an ear infection because her supervisor refused to grant her sick time. One day, she was very sick on the job, and her supervisor told her to go home. When she returned to work the next day, the company told her she’d been fired for “abandoning” the job, in spite of her having obtained a medical excuse from a doctor for three days of time off. While they did provide her with her last paycheck, they did not pay her out for the rest of her accrued paid vacation time.

Knowing her rights had been violated, she immediately began working with our team at the Immigrant Worker Center, and together they submitted a claim with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. Though there wasn’t deemed to be sufficient proof for retaliation, the AG’s office did issue three citations against the company for nonpayment of wages, failure to keep accurate timekeeping records, and failure to provide paid sick time on Isabella’s last day. The company was also required to pay her the accrued PTO they owed her.

Jennifer*, meanwhile, was working at two different restaurants, when she was injured on the job. While she was sharpening a knife, she cut her thumb and had to go to the hospital. Workers’ compensation covered some of her expenses and provided her with weekly payments, but those payments were unusually low relative to her lost income. Meanwhile, in the midst of all this, her boss decided to fire her while she was still incapacitated with injury. Facing minimal compensation and potential retaliation from her employer, Jennifer got in touch with our Worker Center.

Our team worked with her to get a complete picture of the situation and send out legal referrals to help her with her case. Specifically, we referred Jennifer to Andrea Coral, an attorney specializing in workers’ compensation, and Dave McKenna of Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), who helped us with her retaliation case. Andrea determined that the weekly payments she was receiving only covered the loss of income from one of her restaurant jobs. With the help of Andrea, Dave from GBLS, and the Worker Center, Jennifer was able to have her workers’ compensation adjusted to reflect both incomes. She was also able to receive additional compensation due to scarring she received from the injury.

Unfortunately, between cases of unpaid benefits, workers’ comp, and wage theft, companies not paying their employees what they legally owe them was a significant issue facing workers across the board in 2023. Gabriel* and Carlos* had just wrapped up work on a construction project when the subcontractor they worked for refused to pay them for all the hours they were owed. The subcontractor argued that they had not done a good enough job, and that because they had brought in someone else to fix it, they weren’t going to pay Gabriel and Carlos the rest of what they were owed.

Together with Gabriel and Carlos, our Worker Center team did outreach to the subcontractor, eventually writing a demands letter asking him to pay the remainder of what he owed them. We set up a mediation meeting together with Justice at Work (who supported us with this case) to try and resolve the issue. The subcontractor agreed to a payment plan at the meeting to ensure that Gabriel and Carlos could get the rest of their hours paid. However, when the subcontractor did not respond to our subsequent outreach after the meeting and neglected to follow through with the payment plan, we submitted a complaint to the AG’s office. They found, following an investigation, that both Gabriel and Carlos were owed more than $3000 each, which had to be paid for by the company who had hired the subcontractor.

Without support from generous individuals like you, these successes would not be possible. Nevertheless, these cases comprise only a fraction of the critical work our Immigrant Worker Center does in support of working people. When you donate $5000, $500, or even $100 to MassCOSH, you are giving us the gift of capacity to reach more people like Isabella, Jennifer, Gabriel, and Carlos. In the face of companies continuing to disregard workers, you are empowering them to mobilize and advocate for their fundamental rights, as well as their health and safety needs.

Thank you for your support:

*Pseudonym to protect identity of worker