Illegal abuses in low-wage workplaces are largely going unreported by workers because of a realistic expectation their bosses will retaliate against them for speaking up, according to a new study released this week.
The report, Challenging the Business of Fear, was prepared by Raise the Floor Alliance, which is a coalition of Chicago worker centers, and the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI). Surveys and interviews were conducted with nearly 300 Chicago-area workers from a variety of low-wage industries, including warehousing, manufacturing, food service and retail.
The study finds that among employees who dared to speak up about workplace injustices like unsafe conditions, wage theft, injuries, sexual harassment and discrimination, 58 percent experienced retaliation. Of workers who reported legal violations to regulatory agencies like the Illinois Department of Labor, Department of Human Rights, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, over 80 percent said their employer retaliated against them.
Sophia Zaman, executive director of Raise the Floor Alliance, said at a press conference Thursday that retaliation has become “so normalized, it’s basically a way of doing business.”


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