Skip to Highlights

This is the Spanish-language version of GAO-02-925. Day laborers generally are individuals who work and get paid on a daily or short-term basis. To find work, they often congregate on street corners and wait for employers to drive by and offer them work. Day laborers may also be employed by temporary staffing agencies that assign them work on a daily basis with client employers. Day laborers have an informal relationship with the labor market, often working for different employers each day, being paid in cash, and lacking key benefits, such as health or unemployment insurance. However, day laborers may be eligible for wage and safety protections provided by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. The U.S. Department of Labor administers both acts. Its Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is responsible for ensuring that all covered workers receive at least the federal minimum hourly wage and overtime pay. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is required to ensure that employers provide safe and healthy workplaces to help their workers avoid injury or death. Coverage under both laws does not depend on a worker's immigration status. Although limited, information on the nature and size of the day laborer workforce suggests that these workers may be prone to workplace abuses and are probably undercounted. Available information shows that day laborers are generally young Hispanic men with little education and significant language barriers, with some also being undocumented. The only nationally representative data on the day laborer population comes from Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, but these data may undercount day laborers. The unique characteristics of day laborers and their work affect Labor's ability to enforce the protections afforded them by federal law. First, neither WHD nor OSHA can get complete information about potential violations involving day laborers, making it difficult to target resources. Second, WHD's and OSHA's investigative procedures make it difficult to detect violations of worker protection laws involving day laborers, who often have nonstandard work arrangements. Finally, WHD officials are uncertain about the extent of coverage for day laborers in some cases, and the responsibilities of temporary staffing agencies under the OSH Act are unclear.

Full Report