272714 Leveraging environmental health to protect low-wage and immigrant workers

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 : 3:09 PM - 3:21 PM

Megan E. Gaydos, MPH , Environmental Health, San Francisco Department of Public Health, San Francisco, CA
Karen Yu, MPH, REHS , Environmental Health Section, San Francisco Department of Public Health, San Francisco, CA
June Weintraub, ScD , Environmental Health Section, San Francisco Department of Public Health, San Francisco, CA
Rajiv Bhatia, MD, MPH , Occupational and Environmental Health, San Francisco Department of Public Health, San Francisco, CA
Employment conditions and benefits – such as fair wages, time off for illness and leisure, health insurance, or training on health and safety – all impact worker and community health. Although labor laws establish minimum standards for working conditions, these laws, and their potential health benefits to population health, are often undermined by employer non-compliance and incomplete labor law monitoring and enforcement. Low-wage and immigrant workers in particular are disproportionately exposed to poor working conditions and non-payment of wages earned, or “wage theft”.

This presentation will provide an overview of the approaches used by the San Francisco Department of Public Health's Program on Health, Equity, and Sustainability (PHES) to address workplace conditions and occupational health of low-wage and immigrant workers. Starting with health education and safety trainings with day laborers, PHES work has evolved to include community-based participatory research to document conditions faced by day laborers, domestic workers and restaurant workers; health impact assessments of a living wage, paid sick leave, and labor protections for domestic workers; collaborative policy work to address wage theft; pilot projects to observe labor law postings and identify sentinel worker health and safety hazards; institutionalizing the monitoring of labor standards compliance into environmental health regulatory functions; increased collaboration with local and state labor agencies; and leveraging administrative procedures to help recover wages for exploited workers.

The presentation will briefly describe the evolution of PHES work environment activities and lessons learned over the past decade, and will conclude with future opportunities for local and state health departments to address the work environment as a social determinant of health and source of health inequities.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Occupational health and safety
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
1) List methods for documenting and addressing workplace conditions faced by low-wage and immigrant workers 2) Describe three innovative approaches to incorporate monitoring compliance with labor standards into traditional environmental health regulatory functions

Keywords: Occupational Health, Environmental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a Planning and Policy Analyst/Epidemiologist at the San Francisco Department of Public Health who has been coordinating the department's work environment-related research and policy projects for the past three years. I was the lead author on the domestic worker health impact assessment, a peer-reviewed article about our Chinatown restaurant work, and the day laborer project evaluation and have contributed to numerous other Program on Health, Equity, and Sustainability publications and policy projects.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.