When workers speak up and seek to address the workplace problems, they risk retaliation. Over one-third of workers who reported a grievance with their employer faced retaliatory actions, and 20% of workers who reported workplace injuries were retaliated against by their employers.
Retaliation in its many different forms–such as firing, threats, abuse of immigration enforcement, and unilateral changes in schedules, duties and pay–are routine across various low-wage industries in the Chicago region. Enforcement of workplace laws, particularly the detection of violations, relies heavily on workers asserting their rights, making complaints and claims. But the ever-present threat of retaliation and the contingent nature of the work often prevents these workers from even reporting violations.
Provisions in these laws make it illegal for employers to retaliate against workers who claim their rights. However, gaps in anti-retaliation enforcement allow employers to lower labor wages by preventing workers from exercising their rights under these laws through the use of retaliation, intimidation and coercion – an affront to the spirit and letter of these laws.
Recognizing that the impetus for policy change requires strong documentation, Raise the Floor has partnered with the National Economic & Social Rights Initiative (NESRI) to collect and track low-wage worker retaliation data. Information will be compiled into an extensive report which will include data from our community-based surveys, an analysis of Illinois’ 9 different retaliation mechanisms, gaps in enforcement, and policy recommendations to inform future policy campaigns.