Located at the scenic confluence of the Pacific coast and U.S.-Mexico border, San Diego has long been a destination for both American citizens lured by the temperate weather and immigrants looking for new beginnings. The city’s status as a port of entry has led to a hodgepodge of different cultures and cuisines from countries south of the border and across the ocean, but San Diego’s ties to Hispanic language and traditions have always been a significant part of its identity.
Today, Spanish-speaking San Diegans work in every industry, attend every school, and live in every neighborhood. About a quarter of the city’s population speaks Spanish, according to the most recent American Community Survey. It is the primary language spoken at home for many residents, and almost a third of those under 18 speak it, meaning that many new entrants into the city’s workforce will speak Spanish as a first or second language.
These employees are entitled to the same rights as any other resident, including protections for employment opportunities and Workers’ Compensation. Unfortunately, workers who speak Spanish as their first language can be vulnerable to the predations of the companies they work for, says Marcelo A. Dieguez, an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer and founding partner of the Southern California-based Diefer Law Group.
“What we tend to see is that employers try to take advantage of Spanish-speaking workers because they think they can get away with it,” said Dieguez. “It’s important for those workers to stand up and fight for their rights, and we help them do just that.”
Employee Rights in San Diego
Like most states, California requires all employers to maintain a Workers’ Compensation policy, no matter how many or how few employees they have. This policy entitles an employee injured on the job to receive prompt, effective treatment and, in return, shields the employer from litigation over those injuries. California law also makes it illegal to punish or fire a worker for being injured at work or filing a Workers’ Comp claim.
It’s important to note that these rights are afforded to everyone, not just legal residents. There are also regulations laid out by the state’s Division of Workers’ Compensation clearly stating that interpreters are to be provided in certain situations, a benefit that some Spanish-speaking workers may not know about.
Why Employee Rights Need to Be Protected
Workers in unskilled, labor-intensive jobs are often paid a lower wage than those working in an office, yet these same blue-collar workers are much more likely to be injured than their white-collar counterparts. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that almost 10 percent of those working in San Diego have jobs in manufacturing; tens of thousands more work in waste management, warehousing, agriculture, and construction, all fields that tend to have higher-than-average rates of workplace injuries.
An employee who is injured at a dangerous job site may have to rely on Workers’ Compensation benefits to keep food on the table, and they shouldn’t be denied that right simply because they speak a language other than English. It’s important for those workers to have the support of legal experts when they need it, if only to make sure that employers follow through on their obligations. No one should be left at the mercy of a company or corporation, and firms like ours help to make sure that doesn’t happen.