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Moreno: A Grim Reality: Latinos Affected Most by COVID-19

  • State: California
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No organization of lawyers in California represents more immigrant workers than CAAA.

Cynthia Moreno

Cynthia Moreno

Year after year, Latino workers have the highest injury rates and are the only demographic segment of the population with an increasing rate of deaths at the workplace.

Applicants’ attorneys aren’t surprised that those most affected by COVID-19 during this ongoing pandemic have been and continue to be Latinos.

A recent Stanford study found that in California Latinos have faced greater exposure to COVID-19 and have contracted and died at higher rates. The study didn’t rule out that racism might have played a factor in these findings as well.

There were other findings in the study that we should remember.

During the pandemic, more Latinos were employed in low-wage jobs in industries, occupations and sectors that were deemed essential by the government, including the entire food chain. From farm to fork. 

According to the Center for American Progress, the five industries in which the largest share of the workforce is Latino and employed more than 500,000 workers included landscaping, animal slaughtering and processing, crop production, services building and dwellings (i.e., housekeeping), and warehousing and storage.

Each of these industries had higher incidence rates of occupational injuries and illnesses compared to the national average.

When Latino essential workers got the virus, they went home to isolate in households where there were more family members living together than there were rooms, with other essential workers and family members, thereby increasing the risk of spread, illness and, too often, death.

As we can all understand, undocumented immigrants are less likely to file complaints regarding illegal or hazardous conditions, even though they are likely to benefit from legal protections through regulations under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or workers’ compensation.

Gov. Gavin Newsom made it easier for employees to access workers’ compensation benefits by shifting the burden of proof to employers, who will have to show that employees did not contract COVID-19 at work to avoid a claim.

But, for those who hold down essential, high-risk jobs like the majority Latino population, will they still find the courage to file workers’ compensation claims, when and if needed? 

Cynthia Moreno is communications director for the California Applicants' Attorneys Association. This opinion is republished, with permission, from the CAAA website.

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