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Are day laborers protected under employment law?

On Behalf of | Nov 16, 2020 | employment law

Day laborers make up a significant portion of California’s workforce. Groups of these individuals wait outside home improvement stores, construction staging sites and Day Labor Centers. Contractors and homeowners come through to hire people to contribute to contract work, landscaping and home improvement projects.

Many employers may not understand that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) protects these workers under federal law. These laws help protect everyone who works in America, guaranteeing fair wages and safe workspaces for all.


Day laborers help contractors secure affordable help quickly, and without long-term commitments. These non-union workers are also often undocumented, making them particularly vulnerable to exploitation. Those who use day labor must protect their workers’ rights:

  • Right to organize: Even day laborers can organize to improve working conditions. Several non-profit organizations help protect these rights, including the Day Labor Centers from California Human Development.
  • Right to pay: Even undocumented workers have a right to minimum wage and overtime. Day laborers may even sue for back pay.
  • Right to safety: Employers must provide workplace health and safety protections in line with federal and state regulations. These responsibilities include covering all medical expenses for injuries sustained on the job and securing worker’s compensation insurance.
  • Right to be free from discrimination: Discriminating against day laborers for their race, color, age, religion, disability, sex, or immigration status is illegal.
  • Right to remain silent: Workers are under no obligation to answer questions about their legal status, even from their employer.

Employers frequently take advantage of day laborer populations. According to the United Workers Congress, about 1 in 5 day laborers suffer workplace injuries. Many of those injured do not receive medical care because employers deny that they were ever employees. Rarely do these people stand up for themselves in court, fearing retaliation from immigration services.


Residents and business owners who use day labor for convenience and cost-effectiveness must protect their employees under federal and state law. A local lawyer familiar with employment law can look over the terms of job agreements and help create safe and responsible workspaces.