SAME OCEAN, DIFFERENT BOATS: THE PANDEMIC’S DISPROPORTIONATE IMPACT ON CERTAIN WORKERS, EMPLOYMENT LAW’S PROTECTIONS, AND ITS LIMITATIONS
By Ramit Mizrahi
Ramit Mizrahi is the founder of Mizrahi Law, APC in Pasadena, which represents employees exclusively in discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination cases. She is Chair of the Pasadena Bar Association Labor and Employment Law Section and Immediate Past Chair of the CLA Labor and Employment Law Section. She is a graduate of Yale Law School, the London School of Economics and Political Science, and UC-Berkeley. She can be reached at ramit@ mizrahilaw.com.
Six months ago, the coronavirus pandemic led to one of the most extreme economic shocks in the history of our nation. Real gross domestic product shrank at an estimated annual rate of 32.9% in the second quarter of 2020, after dropping by 5% in the first quarter.1 Nationally, employment rates were down by 20% at bottom in mid-April and are still nearly 7% below where they were in January 2020.2 Here in California, as of July 27, employment rates remain nearly 10% below January rates.3 Los Angeles County has been even harder hit, with an unemployment rate still at 17.5%.4
Looking at overall numbers, however, fails to reveal the disproportionate impact that the pandemic, and the governmental response to it, has had on certain groups of workersâthose working in hard-hit industries, who are disproportionately low earners, women, and workers of color; those with disabilities; older workers; and parents with young children. Employment law offers protections to certain workers, but has its limitations. This article explores which workers are most affected by the pandemic, where employment law serves to protect them, and where we must look outside of employment law to support those most in need.