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Students gather data to identify workplace issues

Posted: Monday, Jan 6th, 2014

SANTA CRUZ A survey that seeks to learn more about working conditions for low-wage employees began gathering data with the help of law students Saturday.

The survey, a partnership between UC Hastings, UC Santa Cruz and California Rural Legal Assistance in Watsonville, is not focused on agricultural workers, said Gretchen Regenhardt, directing attorney at CRLA, rather, it will focus on other low-paid workers, such as those in the restaurant business, retail and janitorial.

Sixteen students from UC Hastings gathered at CRLA on Saturday and met with Senator Bill Monning and Assemblyman Luis Alejo.

Afterward, they headed out to the Live Oak/Santa Cruz area, marking the beginning of a four-day process of surveying employees.

UCSC students will take over the surveying later in the month. The goal is to gather a sample of between 500-1,000 people, Regenhardt said, and the findings will be presented in a report to help lawmakers address policy issues.

Its data that no ones gathered, she said. It may be useful to inform policy decisions.

While still too early to tell, Regenhardt said she expects a number of issues to come forward through the survey, such as widespread wage and hour violations, poor understanding of overtime rules, and employees working sick in fear of losing their jobs.

We want to learn more about what our clients are facing in the workplace, she said. If we see some trends, see some problems that are common, than we can develop a legal strategy to address those.

Those surveyed are kept anonymous. A $10 gift card is given as an incentive to participate in the 20-minute survey.

The employees who are surveyed are also asked if they would be willing to talk to the CRLA more in depth in the future about their workplace conditions.

During the survey, the students also provided information about workers rights, along with resources for where they can get help.

Regenhardt said the plan is to expand the scope of the survey and include all of Santa Cruz County.

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