Even In Work Benefits, Black And Latino Workers Lose Out To White Peers

Almost 40 percent of U.S. workers lack access to even one paid sick day, according to a new report.

When it comes to paid leave, the situation in America is dire for everyone -- but it’s worse for people of color.

A new report from the Center for American Progress finds that workers’ access to paid leave and workplace flexibility varies dramatically depending on their race and ethnicity. based on 2011 data from the Department of Labor's American Time Use Survey. 

Black and Latino workers have far less access to paid sick leave, vacation and flexible work schedules than their white peers.

According to the report:

  • Latino workers are 11 percent less likely than their white counterparts to have access to paid sick days, and 12 percent less likely to have paid vacation.

  • Black workers are 7 percent less likely than white workers to have access to flexible work hours.

Marisol Quintero with son John Paul, age 18 months. When John Paul was diagnosed with anemia, his mother had to tak
Marisol Quintero with son John Paul, age 18 months. When John Paul was diagnosed with anemia, his mother had to take 6 months of leave without pay because her workplace didn't have a provision for paid time off.

The new report's findings are based on 2011 data from the Department of Labor's American Time Use Survey. While past reports have found that workers' access to leave differs by race, this report controls for a wide variety of factors like age, income, education and occupation to truly isolate the influence of race, the report's co-author, Sarah Jane Glynn, told The Huffington Post. 

This means that when you compare a Latino worker with a white worker who is otherwise identical when it comes to educational attainment, type of job and earnings, the Latino worker is still less likely to have access to paid leave.

“This, to me, indicates that it’s not about trying harder, working harder, or going back to school to get a better job,” Glynn said. “This is someone’s ethnicity: They can’t work harder to get better access, it appears to be stacked against them.”

Unequal treatment in the workplace is nothing new for workers of color. The gender wage gap, for instance, hits all women hard, but it hits women of color much harder: While women in the U.S. earn 79 cents for every dollar a man earns, black women earn only 63 cents and Latinas only 54 cents.  

“The things that determine the benefits you have, it’s what type of education you have, what job you’re working in, but also ... if you’re white,” Glynn said.

All workers need to take time off at some point or another  -- whether to care for a new baby, a sick loved one or themselves. Access to paid time off is critical, not only to workers’ health, but also to businesses’ productivity and turnover rate.

“Paid sick days are not a perk, like free snacks or free yoga classes,” Glynn said. “We’re talking about somebody not losing a day’s wages when their kid is sick and they have to pick them up from school.”

The movement for better paid leave policies is slowly spreading: Four states have passed laws to provide workers with access to paid family leave, and five states and 23 cities have guaranteed workers the right to earn sick leave.

But it’s not spreading fast enough. Almost 40 percent of all employees -- or nearly 40 million workers -- still don’t have access to even a single paid sick day, according to the report.

“This shows that we can’t just leave this up to the market to decide,” Glynn said. “States and cities are passing these laws, but we need federal action.”



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