The Return of Typhoid Mary? Immigrant Workers in Nursing Homes

Journal of Elder Policy (Spring 2021 Forthcoming)

Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 20-44

32 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2020 Last revised: 9 Dec 2020

See all articles by Shefali Milczarek-Desai

Shefali Milczarek-Desai

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law

Tara Sklar

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law

Date Written: November 19, 2020

Abstract

Nursing homes are dependent on immigrant, female labor as nursing aides, yet these workers are provided with minimal employment benefits, which has led to devastating consequences for vulnerable, older residents during COVID-19. Emerging research suggests that aides are contributors to the increase in coronavirus outbreaks due to working in multiple long-term care facilities and refer to these individuals as “superspreaders.” Specifically, aides have been tied to unwittingly passing on the virus as they may be asymptomatic or pressured to work by employers while symptomatic with limited access to paid sick leave. The plight of these women harkens back to “Typhoid Mary”—also a poor, immigrant woman who was accused of spreading typhoid fever a century ago. This Article applies lessons learned from Mary’s shocking and tragic trajectory, then employs critical race and feminist jurisprudence to highlight examples of structural and institutional disparities that exist in current paid sick leave laws. Recommendations call for improved oversight in delivery of quality and safety in long-term care by addressing racial, gender, and economic inequalities through paid sick leave laws coupled with strong enforcement.

Keywords: COVID-19, long-term care, paid sick leave, immigrant workers

Suggested Citation

Milczarek-Desai, Shefali and Sklar, Tara, The Return of Typhoid Mary? Immigrant Workers in Nursing Homes (November 19, 2020). Journal of Elder Policy (Spring 2021 Forthcoming), Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 20-44, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3733990

Shefali Milczarek-Desai (Contact Author)

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210176
Tucson, AZ 85721-0176
United States

Tara Sklar

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210176
Tucson, AZ 85721-0176
United States

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