Publication Date



Purpose - This study examines the conditions that lead to workplace violations for low-wage immigrant workers, and how family life shapes their decision to speak up. I also highlight how both employer abuse and the claims making process can impact individuals and their families.

Methodology/approach - This research adopts a mixed-method approach that includes a survey of 453 low-wage workers seeking pro bono legal assistance and 115 follow-up interviews with claimants. I also conduct a five-year ethnography of both a monthly state workshop provided for injured workers and a pro bono legal aid clinic in a predominantly Latino agricultural community on the California central coast.

Findings - Beyond the material effects of lost income, the stress of fighting for justice can have negative emotional impacts that intersect with complex family dynamics. While families can be an important source of support and inspiration during this time, the burden of the breadwinner can also temper workers’ willingness to engage the labor standards enforcement system. Transnational obligations can further introduce a demobilizing dual frame of reference for workers who often hide their abuse from family members abroad who depend on them.

Research implications - Workplace abuse and the actual process of legal mobilization can have far-reaching effects on the families of low-wage immigrant workers, suggesting the need for a more holistic understanding of the claims making experience.

Originality/value - This chapter tracks the challenges that workers face even once they have come forward to fight for their rights, and the multiple effects on families and children.


Required Publisher Statement
© Emerald. Final version published as: Gleeson, S. (2015). Between support and shame: The impacts of workplace violations for immigrant families [Electronic version]. In J. A. Vallejo (Ed.), Research in the sociology of work (Vol. 27: Immigration and work, pp. 29-52). Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing Ltd. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Suggested Citation
Gleeson, S. (2015). Between support and shame: The impacts of workplace violations for immigrant families [Electronic version]. Retrieved [insert date], from Cornell University, ILR School site: